by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 16th 2009 10:49pm
We've seen way too many lawsuits involving companies suing search engines for trademark infringement due to paid search adveritisng, but the latest lawsuit is a bit different. It appears that Mary Kay (who has a long history of being an aggressive enforcer of trademark) has sued Yahoo because of the way it inserts ads in email. Apparently Yahoo employs that incredibly annoying process of hotlinking certain text words to pop up advertisements. I've seen this on various websites (now blocked thanks to No Script) but I didn't realize Yahoo used the same annoying process in email as well. Mary Kay claims that this is confusing, and this actually does raise some interesting legal questions. First of all, I could see how some people might actually be confused by these sorts of ad links. While they usually look a little different than a real hyperlink, unless you're paying attention, you might get confused and think it's a normal link, rather than an ad. But that just speaks to confusion over what the link is. Once you hover over it, it becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly that it's an ad. I have a lot more trouble believing that it would then confuse many users. That said, even if it is confusing, there's a question as to whether or not Yahoo should actually be liable for any confusion. After all, it's just using an automated system to insert these ads. I might argue that it's obnoxious, annoying and unnecessarily intrusive, but it's not clear that it should be illegal.
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