In the case of Orion Bankcorp Inc. v. Orion Residential Financial, the court ruled that Orion Residential was basically devaluing the trademark and intellectual property value of the keywords people use in search engine searches that would take them to Orion Bankcorp. The court ordered Orion Residential to insert “negative keywords” into their website.
Without going into to all the legal shmegal, the court basically stated that Orion Residential was infringing Orion Bancorps trademark by inserting keywords that Orion Bancorp has trademark protection for in their name as used in keywords and such. The court entered an order:
“barring defendant from purchasing or using any form of advertising including keywords or “adwords” in internet advertising containing any mark incorporating Plaintiff’s Mark, or any confusingly similar mark, and shall, when purchasing internet advertising using keywords, adwords or the like, require the activation of the term “ORION” as negative keywords or negative adwords in any internet advertising purchased or used.”
This frankly is not unusual in terms of trademark cases. Please are always getting sued for trademark infringement in trying to siphon off business using someone else’s established good will.
Search engines often get sued for devaluing trademarks in this way. Google has been sued several times for selling key words in its’ Google AdWords program that a company may feel are protected trademark. Until the American Airlines suit however they have been primarily obscure companies not making big news . It is however the first time I have seen a court order a company to insert safeguard in their web site to protect the trademark of another company. If anyone has seen other cases like this I would would love to hear about them.
This is very similar to the issue in the much more prominent and publicized case of American Airlines v. Google. Without going into all the intricacies of the case American Airlines sued Google for allowing other companies to have their banners come up when Google searches for American Airlines and related words were done. The basic argument is that these banners devalue the intellectual property and infringe on the trademark of American Airlines. In layman’s terms? American Airlines was sick and tired of companies getting a free ride on the back of trademark value they worked so hard to establish while Google made a killing.
This case is still pending. Google is fighting back hard. They make a killing selling these keywords to companies. A win by American Airlines will have financial ramification for Google and set the standard for future suits of this nature.
We all know that keyword abuse in the business world is rampant. How many company specific keywords do you have on your business site in the hopes that people looking for the more established company will be decided to check out your web site instead when it appears in the search rankings. There is no getting around the fact that this practice tends to run afoul of U.S. trademark law.
I believe that these keyword suits will become much more common and high profile over the next decade as the internet becomes more and more integrated in the the everyday shopping experience. The American Airlines Suit is just the first high profile salvo.
I had better go take my Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse key words out of my web site for Mickey’s House of Hookers…..