Sunday, June 28, 2009

2d Cir. decision allowing Lanham Act complaint against Google's "Adwords" program

The Google programs allow companies to “buy” keywords that may consist of competitors’ trademarks and, when an Internet user searches Google for that keyword/trademark, have Google’s search result page display an ad and a link for the purchaser’s website.

Rescuecom Corp. v. Google Inc., No. 06-4881 (2d Cir. Apr. 3, 2009) held that the district court erred in concluding that the complaint failed to state a claim because Google didn’t “use” the keyword/mark “in commerce.” Rejecting this reasoning, the Second Circuit held that the complaint alleged that Google indeed uses the mark in commerce by displaying it—and even suggesting it—to potential purchasers of advertisements through the two Google Adwords and Keywords Suggestions Tool. The fact that the Internet searcher doesn’t see the mark in a resulting ad in a later search didn’t seem to matter to the Court once the Court found that the complaint had alleged use by Google at the stage of selling their programs to advertisers.
Since it was properly alleged that Google’s programs did in fact “use” the plaintiff’s marks in commerce, and the complaint also alleged that the resulting ads were likely to cause confusion, the Court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

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