The Search Engine Professionals at Rank for $ --- In business since 1997.
Back to our Homepage SEO Tips that will make a big difference in your rankings and our most popular ** How To ** section The most common myths about SEO -- Read what the experts have to say about today's most common SEO myths and misconceptions Frequently Asked Questions to Search Engine Optimization and Positioning Search Engine Optimization Industry News -- Stay in tune with the most recent developments in search engine technology and the SEO industry Contact Rank for $ales today and get your site's rankings high in the engines-- Right where they should be!


Search this site

Google and Overture sued by Geico

May 19, 2004

Geico, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, filed suit against Google and Yahoo-owned Overture on May 4, in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Auto insurance company Geico has sued Google and Overture Services for allegedly violating its trademarks in search-related advertisements, in the latest legal salvo against the Internet companies.

The insurer charged the two companies with infringing on its trademarks when they sold them as keywords to Geico's rivals, so that the protected terms could appear in sponsored search results. According to the suit, that practice causes consumer confusion, in violation of the Lanham Act, the primary federal law covering trademark registration and protection.

"This practice deliberately misleads consumers and allows Geico's competitors and these defendants to illegally exploit for their own commercial purposes Geico's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in its brand," company spokeswoman Janice Minshall wrote in an e-mail.

The insurer is seeking damages and an injunction against Google's and Overture's use of its service marks in their advertising programs.

Geico, the largest direct marketer of auto insurance in the United States, is the most high-profile American company to have filed a complaint against Google and Overture over their ad-selling practices. It launched its lawsuit only weeks after Google announced plans to limit concessions made to trademark owners regarding their rights to keywords sold in its popular ad program.

The suit also comes only weeks after Google filed to raise $2.7 billion in an initial public offering. In its S-1 filing, the company highlighted the financial risks it would face if it were forced to limit sales of keyword ads to generic words. Roughly 95 percent of Google's $1 billion in annual revenue comes from search-related advertising, according to its filing.

Complaints abound about misuse of trademarks in search engine ads. Google and Overture have built billion-dollar businesses by marrying text ads with search results; the technique has been effective because Web searching is such a common method for people to find products and services. Consequently, more companies have sought control over their brand names and trademarked terms in paid search. Businesses including American Blind and Wallpaper Factory have filed trademark complaints against search engines.

Still, U.S. law is unclear about how far search engines must go to make sure trademarks aren't infringed upon.

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In the past, representatives from the company have said that trademark law allows for the use of registered marks, as long as there is no likelihood of consumer confusion.

An Overture representative said the company cannot comment on pending litigation. But Overture employs a fair-use policy for evaluating requests from trademark owners.

"In cases in which an advertiser has bid on a term that may be the trademark of another, Overture allows the bids only if the advertiser presents content on its Web site that (a) refers to the trademark...without creating a likelihood of consumer confusion...or (b) uses the term in a generic or merely descriptive manner," according to a notice posted on the company's Web site.

In contrast, Google has adopted a more hands-off approach, opting to review fewer trademark complaints. In April, the search company began allowing U.S. and Canadian advertisers to bid on any keyword, including trademarked terms, in its sponsored listings service.

Previously, Google had granted requests from advertisers, including 1-800 Contacts and eBay, to bar competitors from bidding on their trademarked names. Google will now only review trademark complaints that relate to text appearing in sponsored listings on its Web site and those of its partners.

According to Geico's complaint, the insurer considered Google's policy change before pursuing legal action: "Google's recent change in trademark policy constitutes a deliberate decision to use the registered trademarks of other companies, including Geico, for the financial benefit of Google and to the detriment of (others)."

Google faces a number of lawsuits similar to Geico's. Louis Vuitton sued Google and its French subsidiary for similar alleged trademark infringement, and a French court ordered Google to cease the practice and pay a fine. In January, American Blind and Wallpaper Factory filed suit against Google in a New York federal court, alleging trademark infringement.

In an effort to preempt American Blind's suit, Google late last year asked a U.S. District Court judge in San Jose, Calif., for a declaratory judgment in the dispute. American Blind still insists, though, that Google stop selling keyword phrases that the company claims violate its trademarks.

Overture faces two pending U.S. trademark suits, one filed by JR Cigar and another by Pets Warehouse.

Paid search is one of the fastest-growing and most closely watched segments of the online advertising business. According to Jupiter Research, paid search will grow from $1.6 billion in sales in 2003 to $2.1 billion this year, and it will continue to grow at a compound annual rate of 20 percent through 2008.

At least some of that growth could be jeopardized if legal rulings bar Google and other search engines from selling off well-known terms such as "Wells Fargo" in their ad programs, legal experts have said.

Research shows that many inquiries at search engines are for brand names or trademarked terms. Within the finance category, for example, more than half the total searches are for branded keywords such as Wells Fargo, according to ComScore Networks, a market research company.

"This is yet another reminder we have to question the core revenue-generating practices of Google and Overture and whether it's sustainable as a legal proposition," said Eric Goldman, an assistant professor of law at Marquette University Law School.

Source: ZD NET and C-Net News

Back to the top of the page.         
Fill out your e-mail address
to receive our free newsletter!

Read Serge Thibodeau's daily blogs on search engines at Serge Thibodeau Live. We strongly suggest you bookmark our web site by clicking here.

Tired of receiving unwanted spam in your in box? Then get SpamArrest™ and put a stop to all that nonsense. Click here to get all the details.
Tired of receiving unwanted spam in your in box? Get SpamArrest™ and put a stop to all that SPAM. Click here and get rid of SPAM forever!

Get your business or company listed in the Global Business Listing directory and increase your business. It takes less then 24 hours to get a premium listing in the most powerful business search engine there is. Click here to find out all about it.

Rank for $ales strongly recommends the use of WordTracker to effectively identify all your right industry keywords. Accurate identification of the right keywords and key phrases used in your industry is the first basic step in any serious search engine optimization program. Click here to start your keyword and key phrase research.

Pay Rank for $ales securely with your Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express credit card through the secure PayPal network. (Note: PayPal is an eBay company, and maintains a net free capital of US $ 50 Million).
VisaMasterCardDiscoverAmerican Express

You can link to the Rank for Sales web site as much as you like. Read our section on how your company can participate in our reciprocal link exchange program and increase your rankings in all the major search engines such as Google, AltaVista, Yahoo and all the others.

Powered by Sun Hosting                  Sponsored by Avantex          Traffic stats by Site Clicks™

Site design by Mtl. Web D.         Sponsored by Press Broadcast         Sponsored by Blog

Call Rank for Sales toll free from anywhere in the US or Canada:   1-800-631-3221

| Home | SEO Tips | SEO Myths | FAQ | SEO News | Articles | Sitemap | Contact |

Copyright © Rank for Sales 2003    Terms of use    Privacy agreement    Legal disclaimer

       Ce site est disponible en Français