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Google AdWords Trademark Lawsuit

April 22nd, 2007

American Blind & Wallpaper Factory, a reseller of window blinds, is suing Google for abuse of trademark rights because it wants other companies to be blocked from advertising on the AdWords network when Internet users search for its name.

Google has been sued over alleged trademark violations twice before, once by Rescuecom, a computer repair company, and also by Geico, a seller of auto insurance. In the two previous lawsuits, Google settled out of court with the companies under undisclosed terms, but the judges in both cases had ruled mostly in Google’s favor, noting that Google did not place the trademark terms on goods, advertisements, etc., and that the keywords used did not cause any confusion.

In this case, however, judge Jeremy Fogel did not allow Google’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which means that it is slated to go to a jury trial in the US District Court of California. The jury’s ruling in this case may be important because it could set a legal precedent on whether or not Google will be somehow obligated to block ads for keywords that might contain trademarked terms.

In my opinion, these types of disputes should be fought out between the advertisers and the trademark holders, not with Google. Frankly, I do not understand how it is Google’s fault if some company’s AdWords affiliate advertises on the “wrong” keyword because they see a chance to make a few extra sales. Google is simply an advertising medium; they should not be put in the position of a government or a law enforcer in determining whether someone might be breaking a trademark rule or not if they run an ad on keyword X, Y, or Z. Trademark laws, if they are going to exist at all (whether or not they actually should exist is a whole other debate) are supposed be enforced by the government, NOT the search engines or the advertising media.

People should be able to advertise on whatever keywords they want to as long as Google allows it. To interfere with people’s right to advertise like the plaintiffs in these lawsuits seem to want to do goes against the whole spirit of a free market. Therefore, this is not something that I can really support. The plaintiffs need to learn how to use the AdWords system to their advantage instead of using the courts to “protect” their precious keywords from a few savvy advertisers and threatening to make life more difficult for both the search engines and us Internet marketers in the process.


4 Responses to “Google AdWords Trademark Lawsuit”

  1. comment number 1 by: Jane

    Good article - wonder what the future will bring??
    Mom

  2. comment number 2 by: Alta

    Google is MAKING MONEY off the infringed trademark.

    They are more than just a website.
    And, they offer nothing to the trademark owner.

    No reputable traditional advertising company would suggest that their advertiser use someone else’s trademark without express written permission.

    They used to block the use of trademarks, thus it can be done. So, why don’t they just play nice again? Why? 97% of their revenue is off ads and with this recession, advertisers are cutting back. It’s the money.

  3. comment number 3 by: Alta

    I think your site is broken. It’s giving me grief with this comment.

  4. comment number 4 by: Karlonia

    @Alta:

    I have noticed that the site will sometimes display an error message after editing an existing comment. It probably has something to do with plugin compatibility; I have not been able to figure out a way to fix it without deactivating the plugin and therefore removing the ability for readers to edit comments.

    However, the basic comment editing function still seems to work in spite of the strange error messages. Whenever I edit one of my own comments and see the message, I can simply refresh or reload the page and my edited text displays correctly.

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