Trademark

GEICO v. Google Over Adlinks

by Lee Gesmer on August 19, 2005

Trademarks. Google sells other companies’ trademarks as “keywords” on its Internet search engine. Whenever someone types in one of these keywords, such as GEICO, not only will Google’s search results show links to GEICO’s web site, but Google also will show advertising for other insurance companies under a banner called “Sponsored Links.” For example, when writing this blog, we searched “GEICO” on Google’s site and were shown paid links to two of GEICO’s competitors, USInsuranceonline.com and InsureMe.com.

Understandably, GEICO protested this practice of using its trademarks to direct consumers to its competitors. Given that 80% of Google’s revenues derive from this “AdWord” program (in turn causing Google to become a Wall Street darling, up three-fold in a year), Google refused to cease and desist, at which point GEICO sued for trademark infringement and unfair competition.

After a bench trial (translation: no jury) in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia in December 2004, the Judge ruled “from the bench” (translation: she delivered her decision orally in court) that GEICO had failed to establish that the use of its trademarks only to direct Google searchers to competitors created consumer confusion (the talisman of a trademark violation).… Read the full article

Trademark Law. Last year I wrote (together with Susan Mulholland, an attorney at my firm), an article on the WhenU line of cases. We reviewed the three legal decisions that had been published to date on the WhenU technology: two from the district courts in Virginia and Michigan holding that WhenU’s practice was permissible; and one, from the federal district court in New York holding that WhenU had violated the Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute.

What does WhenU do that resulted in three federal court cases? In brief, once downloaded by a user (concealed in a “Trojan Horse” application), WhenU’s software will continuously monitor (invisibly, to the user) the user’s Internet browser to determine whether content accessed by the user matches key words stored in WhenU’s client directory. When the software finds a match for an associated key word – often a trademark or service mark – it triggers the SaveNow program to transmit a WhenU-branded pop-up ad to the user’s computer.… Read the full article