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American Airlines Sues Google for Trademark Infringement

It seems Google just can’t get a break from all of the law suits.

This time, they’re facing a trademark suit filed by American Airlines for infringement by Google AdWords.

Eric Goldman has details of the filed complaint (pdf download here) and offer his thoughts on American’s decision to pursue this…

…this could be a very costly lawsuit. I also wonder if American Airlines itself has ever bought third party trademarks as keywords–plenty of keyword plaintiffs have engaged in such duplicity, and I’d be surprised if American Airlines has run a completely clean shop. Finally, it’s not in Google’s nature to retaliate this way, but I wonder what would happen if Google decided to cut off keyword advertising for American Airlines?

It’s a big risk for any company to file a trademark suit against Google’s AdWords product. The claimant is fighting to have a few pesky infringing ads removed from a search engine. Meanwhile, Google is fighting to keep alive a business model that generates +90% of its revenue – which do you think will fight the hardest to win?

Disclosure: I’m a platinum flyer with American Airlines – does that make me biased? ;-)

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    So Google is not going to turn the AdWords account off? hmmmmmmmm

  • http://www.semreportcard.com Tom Crandall

    Kudos to American Airlines for bringing the suit. A lot of search marketers and agencies are ignorant to the significance of trademark protection, until they themselves have issues.

    Search marketers seems to think that these trademark suits are fruitless, but that mentality couldn’t be farther than the truth.

    In 2005, Google was forced to change their trademark advertising policy after a devastating blow from a federal district court in the Geico Case. The court stated:

    “…the district court found that the “extremely high” percentage of respondents who experienced some degree of confusion when viewing these advertisements was sufficient to show that there was a likelihood of confusion present when GEICO’s marks appeared in either the heading or the text of a Sponsored Link advertisement.”

    “Google advised the district court that it had no contrary evidence. Thus, the district court held that GEICO had established a likelihood of confusion and had therefore shown that Google violated the Lanham Act with regard to those Sponsored Link advertisements that included GEICO’s marks in the headings or text.”

    Google then settled with Geico to avoid a tumultuous threat to their business model and quickly changed their trademark policy to reflect the wisdom of the court.

    This issue is not going to go away, because trademark infringement in the ads of search is very real and damaging. If it rolls into a class action, the search engines will face astounding costs in compensatory damages. They are much better off updating policies to halt the brokering of trademarks–for once I agree with France.

  • http://www.north-atlanta-real-estate.com/ Rob McCance

    This is indeed interesting, but I don’t see the point. Google is not profiting from the trademark.

    When you are as large as The Google now, everyone wants a piece.

    RM