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Buying Your Competitor’s Keywords an Invasion of Privacy?



A new argument to prevent your competition from buying sponsored search listings, containing your brand, is playing out right now in a Wisconsin court room.

And it sounds like the kind of court case you’d actually enjoy watching unfold!

Habush, Habush & Rottier claims that competing law firm Cannon & Dunphy violated state privacy laws by buying search ads using the keywords "Habush" and "Rottier." As attorneys they likely knew that they wouldn’t win a trademark infringement claim, so they’re taking this novel approach.

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the defendants pulled a Perry Mason…

J. Ric Gass, attorney for Cannon & Dunphy, accused the plaintiff firm of doing what Habush had said he’d never do – pay to get a Habush, Habush & Rottier ad to appear in Internet search results for other lawyers’ names.

Gass demonstrated his point on Yellowpages.com. Searching for Cannon, Dunphy or Gass, the firms’ information appeared, but beside each set of results was a larger ad for Habush.

I can almost hear the attorney turning to the jury and saying smugly, "then how do you explains THIS!"

Gass then argued that the plaintiff’s had "unclean hands"–legal jargon for "you can’t sue someone for something that you are already doing to yourself."

Despite my legal background–and penchant for John Grisham novels–I’m not normally found enjoying my morning coffee while reading about a court case. However, when you have two attorneys battling to find new ground to protect their internet advertising "rights" it all makes for an enjoyable read. Especially when you are treated to legal rhetoric like this:

"The Complaint demonstrates that the plaintiffs believe that cutting-edge advertising is a sword that only they can wield against their competitors whom they are unable to threaten into stopping such marketing. A simple reading of the statute and the law does not just blunt the plaintiffs’ sword, it breaks it across the knee of the Internet."

You can’t handle the truth! :-)

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