March 29, 2006 6:07 PM PST

Google keyword infringement case to proceed

A court has ruled that a lawsuit over a company purchasing a rival's trademark as a search keyword should go to trial, in what could be the first case to scrutinize the trademark infringement liability of keyword purchasers.

Edina Realty sued rival real estate company TheMLSonline.com, accusing it of false advertising, trademark infringement and trademark dilution. According to the suit, MLS used "Edina Realty" in search terms purchased on Google and Yahoo, in the text of the MLS ads that appeared on the two search sites, and in hidden links and text on the MLS Web site.

"This case offers the first solid data point (in the U.S.) that buying competitors' trademarks as keywords...could constitute trademark infringement," Eric Goldman, assistant professor of law at Marquette University Law School, wrote on his blog Wednesday.

A ruling issued last week by the U.S. District Court in Minnesota said evidence of actual trademark dilution had not been provided in the case but that the case could go to trial because there were disputes on material facts with regard to whether the use of the trademark was causing confusion among consumers.

"This ruling puts increased pressure on Google's policy not to block competitor keyword ad purchases. Now that Yahoo blocks these purchases, Google effectively stands alone in the industry, so it lacks any cover provided by prevailing industry standards," he wrote. "More importantly, Google's position has just become legally riskier. To the extent that competitors' ad purchases constitute direct trademark infringement, Google may face an elevated risk of being deemed a contributory infringer."

In September, auto insurance provider Geico settled a trademark lawsuit with Google over Google's sale of keywords using Geico's mark to Geico's competitors. Other cases are pending.

See more CNET content tagged:
GEICO, infringement, trademark, lawsuit, Google Inc.

3 comments

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Meta Tag infringement?
If the company is putting the name of the opposing realty company in their source code those cases already have precedent, i.e. Playboy V. Club Love et al.
Posted by djpaisley (80 comments )
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Google search
What a laugh North America is! You can protect a word, but they can drug and rape and video tape and sell on the internet 100's of thousands of women and they don't get to even see what has been done to them. All the 'Justice' agencies, and the internet servers and millions of people and yet these assaults continue. Any spiel on Democracy, freedom, privacy is just a joke. The government microchips peoples brains. They allow people to listen to the thoughts of another individual - where is the privacy? How can their be lawsuits over a bloody word, and the victims of the rapes sites can't even get a drug test let alone a lawsuit.

Dianne Robinson
Posted by emeraldgate (53 comments )
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Flowers, LLC and manager Hur Guler have been sued by 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. for alleged Trademark infringement. 1-800-Flowers claims that the defendant has engaged in trademark infringement by bidding on various keywords and purchasing sponsored ads using various search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing.
It is Flowers, LLC position that consumers deserve the right to choose between any number of floral delivery options, and that placing a sponsored ad, which in no way uses the Plaintiff's trademarks does not constitute infringement. A recent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (Network Automation, Inc. v. Advanced Sys. Concepts, Inc.) supports Flowers, LLC's position. The Internet is a shared marketing channel, and 1-800-flowers has made a concerted effort to reduce consumer choice and competition. Flowers, LLC intends to defend its legally justified position on its own behalf and on behalf of each other advertiser seeking fairness in the marketplace.
Posted by humanmichael (1 comment )
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