Is Google Liable For Typosquatting Domains That Use AdSense?

from the seems-like-a-stretch dept

While I have tremendous respect for the ongoing work that Ben Edelman has done over the years exposing many of the dirty tricks used by spyware and adware vendors, I tend to disagree with his view on trademark law. In the past, Edelman sided with websites that sued early spyware vendors for putting up competing pop up ads, but that was missing the point. The real problem there was the fact that spyware was surreptitiously installed. If people wanted to see competitive ads, that should be their choice, and not a trademark issue. There's nothing wrong with competitors trying to get your attention if they know you're looking for a competitor's product. That's not a trademark law, so long as there's no attempt to confuse users into thinking that one product was made by someone else.

Edelman, however, disagrees. And, now, he's actually suing Google for allowing AdSense ads to be placed on "typosquatter" domains. This lawsuit seems like a longshot. As has been seen in numerous lawsuits over AdSense and trademarks, suing Google is trying to put liability on the wrong party. You could potentially sue the owner of the domain, but even that seems like a stretch. It's unlikely that anyone arriving at the typosquatted domain will be "confused" into believing they're at the correct site. They'll either quickly retype the URL properly, or they'll click on a link on the site that takes them to the proper site. There's no actual "confusion" here and it's difficult to see how there's any consumer harm. The fact that Google makes money off the practice shouldn't be seen as illegal at all.

Filed Under: ben edelman, lawsuits, trademark, typosquatting


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  1. icon
    Danny (profile), 27 Oct 2008 @ 8:29am

    squatting site sometimes not all that obvious

    Mike, I disagree with this assertion: It's unlikely that anyone arriving at the typosquatted domain will be "confused" into believing they're at the correct site. I've stepped into a harvested squatting site on several occasions before noticing it was not the real site. This happens to me more when I am going to a site unknown to me - so I have no expectations of what it will look like. I figure it out one or two keystrokes in on most occassions. Sometimes I go far enough to click on an external (advertising?) link. And I am an academic who teaches this stuff. When I think about my mother surfing the web (or almost anyone's mother surfing the web), I am confident it is possible for the naive surfer to not realize she has reached a rogue site. She would not pick up on the cues that you and I do - she would just trust she is in the right place and keep on clicking.

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