The latest case was brought against Google by Daniel Jurin. MediaPost gives some of the details
Jurin, who sells StyroTrim building material, brought suit last year for trademark infringement, false advertising, interference with contractual relations, and other counts. The allegations all stemmed from Google’s AdWords program, which allows trademarked terms to trigger pay-per-click ads.
If you want to get a lesson in whether this kind of thing is a good idea to do, take into consideration these two results from the case. Jurin has to pay $6,000 for Google’s legal fees and most of the case was dismissed. Not exactly a winner other than getting some press that won’t likely help his business any.
In a ruling issued this week, U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England in the eastern district of California dismissed a host of Jurin’s claims, including allegations that Google confused consumers about who produced StyroTrim by returning links to a variety of companies in response to a search on the term. “Even if one accepts as true the allegation that a ‘Sponsored link’ might confuse a consumer, it is hardly likely that with several different sponsored links appearing on a page that a consumer might believe each one is the true ‘producer’ or ‘origin’ of the Styrotrim product,” he wrote.
What is probably the most interesting outcome of this whole thing is the assertion by the court that essentially says that Google sells ad space and not keywords. If you are Google that’s a nice thing to hear a court say because it could potentially take away a lot of the responsibility that many place on Google to police trademarks and more. As of now, the trademark infringement piece of the suit has not been dismissed but it is believed that the likelihood of anything coming of it is slim.
So Google continues to fight the AdWords fight in court and why wouldn’t they? It accounts for the overwhelming majority of the company’s revenues so it is worth fighting for. Of course their legal woes aren’t even close to being over.
Google is currently facing 10 trademark infringement cases stemming from AdWords. No court has yet definitively ruled on whether using a brand name to trigger a search ads infringes trademark. The one case to go to trial, a lawsuit by insurance company Geico against Google, resulted in a victory for Google in 2004. In that case, a judge in Alexandria, Va. ruled that Geico had not proven that consumers were confused when they typed “Geico” into a search box and were served with ads for other insurance companies.
There will always be legal battles for Google and any other successful company to fight especially in this day and age where unscrupulous folks look at the legal system as the the lottery system. As long as the impression is that Google is playing on the right side of the law in most instances then this whole process can just be chalked up to the cost of doing business. Hey, it is America after all.