Eric Goldman breaks-down a recent court ruling that appears to allow the use of trademarked keywords in sponsored ads. Focusing mostly on using trademarks for keyword “bids” and not ad creative, the court ruled that merely bidding on a trademark term is not enough to confuse a consumer.
The court holds that, as a matter of law, the use of keyword-triggered ads and keyword metatags cannot confuse consumers if the resulting ads/search results don’t display the plaintiff’s trademarks. Given the inconsistencies of past rulings, I simply don’t believe that this case will be the final word on the matter. However, if other courts follow this conclusion, we would see a reduction in the quantity of silly litigation over keyword advertising and keyword metatags.
Techdirt also explains why trademark law doesn’t grant the mark holder absolute ownership of the word…
Trademark law is supposed to prevent consumer confusion, such as having someone think they’re buying Coca-Cola, only to find out it’s really Bob’s Cola. Unfortunately, though, many companies seem to believe that trademark law means they have full ownership of their trademarked term, and no one else can use it for anything — especially if it’s a competitor.
If further courts follow this ruling, Google et al will be vindicated in allowing advertisers to bid on trademarked terms.