Google has been sued again by a company mad over the use of its trademarks as keywords, but this one comes with a twist.
Ascentive, the company behind those incessant "Finally Fast!" PC support ads, became the latest Google advertiser to sue the company for allowing advertisers to purchase ads using trademarks they do not own as search keywords. It will have to get in line behind Firepond, Rescuecom and several other companies challenging Google's policy, recently expanded to allow some companies to use trademarks they don't own in the text of their ads.
Ascentive takes its suit a step farther, however, also claiming that Google has unfairly removed some of Ascentive's Web sites from its search index. Ascentive's Finallyfast.com Web site and related software are designed to examine your computer for registry errors and spyware that are ostensibly slowing its performance, and the company has battled with StopBadware.org this year over whether its products should be considered a scam for its dire warnings about benign security threats on your computer that lead to an upsell pitch for Ascentive's services.
According to Ascentive, Google dropped it from search results following two warnings from StopBadware.org about its products. Still, even after StopBadware.org removed their warnings about Ascentive's products following some changes, a search for "finally fast" on Google does not return any Ascentive Web site. That search does, however, return a result for a company called "Finallyfast.us" which appears to offer a very similar product but does not appear to have any relationship with Ascentive.
Google declined to comment "on the individual reasons pages may be removed." Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University who tracks legal issues involving Internet law, doesn't think Ascentive's claims regarding the search results will get very far, according to his blog. "Indeed, as exciting as it would be to see some meaty discussion on the topic of Google's liability (or lack thereof) for deciding who gets into its search index, I'm guessing Google will beat this prong of the complaint quickly and completely," he wrote.
As far as the trademark part of the suit, Google had this to say:
"It's completely normal for a supermarket to stock different brands of cereal on the same shelf or for a magazine to run Ford ads opposite of an article about Toyota, so it doesn't make sense to limit competition online by restricting the number of choices available to users. Just as it's reasonable to expect a range of brands on any shelf in a grocery store, providing users on Google with more than one option when they search for a brand name or other trademark helps them to find the best product at the lowest price."