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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Geico Search Engine Trademark Lawsuit Cleared By Federal Judge

One of the biggest copyright issues regarding ppc search engine marketing yet to be dealt with by the US courts in any definitive way is the bidding by competitors on a company's name or specific product. One of the most well known cases is American Blind and Wallpaper's lawsuit but recently Geico has also filed a suit against Yahoo and Google. They've filed suits against Yahoo and Google for allowing their competitors to bid on their name "Geico".
From a technical perspective Geico is just another keyword but from a legal perspective Geico Inc. owns the trademark to the term Geico. Currently there are only two websites bidding on the term Geico, those are health-auto-life-insurance.com and insweb.com. I find it humorous that Geico doesn't even address the use of their name on their legal notice page. Here's the closest thing I found on the legal page of Geico.com.

"The material provided on the GEICO Companies Web site, including the information and any images incorporated in the site, is for your personal private non-commercial use only. You may not modify, republish, post or transmit anything you obtain from this Web site, including anything you download from the site, unless you first obtain our consent. We request that you not create any kind of hyperlink from any other site to ours unless you first obtain our permission."

MediaPost did a good job of summarizing the Geico law suit and it's key players. Here's an excerpt of their coverage of the Geico / Google / Yahoo ppc branding law suit.

"On Friday a federal judge cleared the way for auto insurance company GEICO's suit to proceed against major search providers Google and Yahoo! subsidiary Overture Services. The decision--which rejected Google's and Overture's motion to dismiss--could have significant implications for the paid search industry, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year by allowing advertisers to bid to be "sponsored links" on search results pages.

GEICO filed the lawsuit in April of this year, claiming that Google and Overture violated its trademark by letting competing auto insurance companies bid to be listed as a sponsored link when users type the word "GEICO" in search engines.

But some experts say that GEICO might be complaining about something that doesn't really hurt it. Trademark infringement attorneys Ed Hernstadt and Drew Patrick, of the law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, PC, say trademark bidding isn't always bad for brands. In fact, Hernstadt said, the opposite is often true. "

Search Marketing Copyright Branding Issues

Personally I think a decision needs to be made by the U.S. Courts and put an end to this trademark / copyright infringement issue. Currently the search engines are responsible for implementing their own policies and the courts have stayed out of these squabbles as much as possible because they don't want to get involved. But, until the search engines get involved and make a solid ruling the search engines will continue to face scrutiny from the public and their customers no matter what they do. Google AdWords and Overture have implemented automated tools and even human editors to scan for different copyright violations as each engine defines them but nothing will be definitive until the courts rule.

Come one court system, get off your analog butts and make a digital ruling! Honestly, it's really not that hard, is it?

By Jason Dowdell at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

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