Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
1/8/2007
06:00 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
Commentary
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

Keywords And Metatags Don't Infringe Trademarks

In a recent blog post, law professor Eric Goldman noted that a ruling in J.G. Wentworth SSC Ltd v. Settlement Funding LLC reinforces other judicial opinions that using trademarked terms as keywords and metatags does not constitute a trademark violation. The plaintiff in the case, J.G. Wentwor

In a recent blog post, law professor Eric Goldman noted that a ruling in J.G. Wentworth SSC Ltd v. Settlement Funding LLC reinforces other judicial opinions that using trademarked terms as keywords and metatags does not constitute a trademark violation.

The plaintiff in the case, J.G. Wentworth, a financial trading company, alleged that Settlement Funding, a competing company, bought the keyword ad terms "J.G. Wentworth" and "JG Wentworth" in Google's AdWords program and used the terms in metatags embedded in its Web pages. It alleged the defendant's actions constituted a trademark violation.

The court thought otherwise."Even though this case didn't quite fit the pattern, this is a big win for advertisers," Goldman says on his blog. "The court holds that, as a matter of law, the use of keyword-triggered ads and keyword metatags cannot confuse consumers if the resulting ads/search results don't display the plaintiff's trademarks. Given the inconsistencies of past rulings, I simply don't believe that this case will be the final word on the matter. However, if other courts follow this conclusion, we would see a reduction in the quantity of silly litigation over keyword advertising and keyword metatags."

What's interesting about this is that while the court found that people aren't likely to be confused by a competitor's use of a trademark as a keyword ad trigger and metatag, consumer confusion isn't the only issue.

What about machine confusion? Is it acceptable to manipulate machines to obtain a desired result online, such as getting one's ad to show up when someone has explicitly search for one's competitor?

With so much of the information we receive mediated by computers, we need to look more carefully at how computer systems can be gamed. Using other people's trademarks as search keywords may not be illegal, but it's not clear to me that it's entirely ethical, either.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Elite 100 - 2014
Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.