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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Google Pitches Another No-Hitter at Trademark Field

Eric Goldman sums up four years of pointless litigation by American Blinds: "I think American Blinds' complete capitulation is the latest reminder to plaintiffs that it's often irrational to bring lawsuits over keywords." The result was worse than neutral for the plaintiff: they found that some of their trademarks are, in fact, unenforceable.

(I am not a legal expert. This is a settlement agreement, but looks like it would have been a loss in court, had the case concluded.)

Adding this landmark case to the growing pile of other high-profile losses by litigants (in particular, a case brought by Geico against Google having been tossed out) on the question of keyword triggering as trademark violation would seem to insure defendants against capricious or misinformed lower court decisions, because the precedent is now so clearly established.

From the standpoint of marketers bidding on "competitor words," a practice we've long adopted for purely practical reasons, we sometimes think we see more stringent quality scores being applied to some "brand" or "trademark" words. However, it's difficult to tell whether that relates to poor CTR's or a relevancy assessment, or whether there is an additional factor Google may add related to "trademark or brand risk/hassle". If the latter does exist, maybe this latest decision will allow Google to relax or eliminate this unnecessary additional component of quality score.

I also think the decision makes it bad timing for Microsoft to have just released what looks like an unnecessarily sticky trademark policy for adCenter advertisers.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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