There have been several legal cases over the past few years where companies have challenged Google’s right to allow competitors to bid a company’s keywords to drive traffic to their site.
Currently in the US, anyone is allowed to bid on a competitor’s trademarks so long as the ad doesn’t use the competitor’s name in the ad copy, thus causing possible confusion. In the UK the decisions have gone the other way and competive trademark bidding is not allowed.
On Friday, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a American Blind’s trademark infringement suit against Google can go to trial, this case is sure to be watched closely by the Industry.
Google had asked the judge to declare that Google’s sale of trademarked terms was legal and didn’t constitute use of commerce under the Lanham act. However the judge ruled that American Blinds did precent enough of an argument for the case to go to jury, saying "he evidence suggests that Google used the mark with the intent to maximize its own profit so the intent factor favors American Blinds."
The case is over 3 years old now, and should go to trial this fall.
Google, which generated advertising revenue of $10.5 billion in 2006, says it is confident of presenting a solid case in a jury trial. "Judge Fogel rightfully concluded that they did not prove that two of their marks are protectable, and we are confident that they will be unable to prove their remaining claims at trial,” says Michael Kwun, Google`s litigation counsel.
But American Blinds, which derives about 50% of its revenue from the web, says the eventual outcome will help web retailers do a better job of protecting their brand and trademark. “The case will prove that Google isn’t a god,” Levine says. “This issue isn’t going away."