Second Circuit: Google Keyword Ad Practices Are "Use in Commerce"

by Lee Gesmer on April 6, 2009

Second Circuit: Google Keyword Ad Practices Are "Use in Commerce"

A few days ago I discussed a decision by Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner holding that purchase of a trademarked keyword to trigger a sponsored link on a search engine constitutes a “use in commerce” of the trademark under the Lanham Act (the Federal Trademark statute). (Earlier post here). In that post I mentioned that among cases addressing this issues, only the Second Circuit had held otherwise.

Now the Second Circuit seems to have changed its position on this issue. In Rescuecom v. Google, issued on April 3, 2009, the court reversed a motion to dismiss by the trial court, holding that Rescuecom properly alleged that Google’s keyword ad practices constituted a “use in commerce” under the Lanham Act.

In a somewhat unusual step, the court attached to its opinion an Appendix entitled “On the Meaning of “Use in Commerce” in Sections 32 and 43 of the Lanham Act.” The Appendix, which is described as dicta, discusses at some length the statutory history of the “use in commerce” phrase in the Lanham Act.

This decision appears to be a game-changer for Google, and will require it to modify its policies on selling key word search ads to competitors.

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