Google, the search engine company, won a federal court battle against Geico, the insurance company, today that allows the search engine to sell online advertisements tied to keywords that are also trademarked company names. Geico claimed that Google should not be allowed to display advertisements for rival insurance companies when the Geico name is used as a search keyword. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema disagreed.
Google’s AdWords program displays sponsored links that are selected, based on the keywords entered into the search engine. Judge Brinkema decided that “there is no evidence that that activity [tieing advertisements to keywords, even if the keywords were trademarks] alone causes confusion,” one of the principal premises of a trademark dispute.
This is one case in which I think that intellectual property law hasn’t caught up with the technology available to Internet users and e-businesses. By allowing trademarks to be used as keywords and generate competitive advertisements, that are frequently not easily distinguishable from the actual search engine’s results, could lead to a dilution of the trademark’s distinction. I’m going to keep following this case, Judge Brinkema still has other issues to decide that were brought forth in this case. But, for now, Google’s footloose to sell insurance ads unrelated to Geico, even if we search for Geico.
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