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Brand Hijacking: Using Your Competitor’s Name In Google AdWords

By Intellectual Property

brand hijacking pay-per-click

Should brand hijacking be allowed in PPC campaigns?

What’s happening with Brand Hijacking?

Many have become both aware and concerned that Google AdWords and other pay-per-click (PCC) allows advertisers to take advantage of the names and identities of their competitors through brand hijacking.

For example, Google AdWords allows advertisers to promote their website whenever a Google search includes words the advertiser chooses. As Google pictured it, a boot salesman could participate in AdWords by selecting words like “western boots” which, if searched by a Google user, would show the boot salesman’s website. Though pictured by Google representatives as a way to generate a profit for Google while directing specific users to the websites that want them, business competitors have taken advantage of Google’s program in a controversial way.

What do courts say about the legality of brand hijacking?

Instead of choosing a phrase like ‘western boots’ to generate traffic to their website, some PPC users have chosen the names, including trademarks, of their competitors to generate traffic. For example, lawyers have secured the names of their competitors in PPC campaigns.  In this way, an Internet user attempting to find a specific attorney will have a second competing attorney’s name appear in advertising because that second attorney tagged the first attorney’s name in the pay-per-click campaign.

Essentially, this piggybacking on more successful or better known identities has spawned controversy because some lawyers have claimed that they have lost business as a result of PPC advertising allowing their business competitors to commandeer clients from them who specifically type in their name.

Claiming that individuals have the right to use, and prevent the misuse of their names, the issue was litigated in a Wisconsin court recently. While the court recognized that individuals do have some ‘right of publicity’ to preserve the integrity of their names, the court found that freedom of speech guarantees extend to business people using the names of their competitors in Google’s AdwWords program.

What does this type of brand hijacking mean for the future of the internet?

While future brand hijacking litigation will determine what the internet will look like in regard to PPC campaigns, if courts use the same logic the Wisconsin court did in preserving freedom of speech, U.S.-based businesses will likely be freely able to use their competitors’ names to generate website views. This has the potential to materially devalue brands and related trademarks.

Perhaps such freedom will enable newcomers to different professions to advertise and compete in a more even-keeled manner with established businesses. However, opponents of pay-per-click (PPC) being used in such a way have strong arguments on their side in favor of an individual’s right to control the use and misuse of his or her very name in brand hijacking campaigns.

Internet Informant: White House Wants You To Be A Government Snitch

By Internet Lawyer

informantIf you oppose government-run health care in an e-mail or on a website, the U.S. government wants to know it.

When your cyber-friends discover that you ratted them out, will you be able to enter the Witness Protection Program? Or will it be a moot point because those you snitched on get sent to re-education camps? Ridiculous? Not if the most powerful man in the United States is asking people internet-privacyto do their patriotic duty by reporting dissidents. This is a program that the governments in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela would be proud of…Of course, they already use the informant system to identify and hunt down dissidents.

This is not about health care. It is a First Amendment free speech issue. If you cannot disagree with the President of the United States in an e-mail or in a forum without being reported to the government for it, then the Bill of Rights means nothing. And if you agree with the President on healthcare, what happens on the next issue that you happen to disagree with him?

Anyone who wants to report this post should e-mail flag@whitehouse.gov.

Just remember…you could be next. And if you’re ‘lucky,’ you’ll get listed in the Who’s a Rat database.

Hat tip: Red State

Goldman Sachs: Welfare Weasel Tries to Silence Blogger Free Speech

By Internet Lawyer

weaselIsn’t it nice to know that Welfare Weasel Goldman Sachs appreciates the government bailout that it received (your tax dollars) so much that it has apparently hired a Wall Street law firm to crush a blogger who happens to be critical of its misconduct?

Your tax dollars are being used for this nonsense in addition to those executive perqs?

The blogger, Mike Morgan at GoldmanSachs666.com,  isn’t intimidated. Rather than wait, he went on the offense and sued Goldman Sachs in federal district court.

It will be interesting to see what happens. Goldman Sachs probably figured its deep pockets, combined with a big law firm, would scare the blogger into silence. To do this, Goldman Sachs asserts the blogger has infringed on its trademark and engaged in unfair competition. Anyone who views Morgan’s site (including the prominent disclaimer) will not mistake it in any way for a Goldman Sachs’ venture  or competitor but recognize it for what it is – a place to vent about the bad practices that Goldman Sachs has engaged in.

Goodbye free speech? If we can interpret the U.S. Constitution to authorize the President to give your tax dollars to the incompetent, the next logical step would be to start eliminating those pesky parts of the Bill of Rights that allow criticism of those second-handers who feed off the government.

Speaking of which, let’s highlight some of the Goldman Sachs incest that enabled it and its corporate cronies to take your tax money to spend as they see fit.

  • President Bush’s last U.S. Treasury Secretary? Henry Merritt “Hank” Paulson Jr., former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.
  • John Stevens Corzine – Governor of New Jersey, former U.S. Senator, and yes, former Chairman and co-CEO of Goldman Sachs.
  • Robert Rubin – Before becoming President Clinton’s U.S. Treasury Secretary, Rubin was, you guessed it, the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

These are just a few examples. Government “service” has served Goldman Sachs and it cronies well. If you look to who has benefited from crisis bailouts, ranging from Mexico in the 1990s to the current TARP fiasco, you’ll find that Goldman Sachs and the other corporate welfare weasels it deals with (AIG, Citigroup, etc.) have done extremely well getting your money from Uncle Sam without any strings attached.

In short, Goldman Sachs deserves contempt for its attempt to suppress blogger free speech.

As for taking your money (using the government as tax collector), you can decide what should be a fitting punishment.

Trademark Infringement: Do Website References and External Links Violate Intellectual Property Law?

By Internet Lawyer

not jones day lawyersMega law firm Jones Day reinforces prior statements that have been made about business attorneys who decide to wade into Internet law. Jones Day is allegedly suing website owners for trademark infringement because the site referred to the law firm without obtain permission and externally linked to the business’s website.

This is different than another recent case where a law firm sued a competitor for trademark infringement. In the Jones Day case, the defendant is not a competitor – the business apparently just doesn’t like the context in which it has been referred to on the site, i.e. the defendant posted information about condominiums purchased by two Jones Day lawyers.

While you can never Read More

Blogging Free Speech and the Fairness Doctrine

By Internet Lawyer

bill of rights and constitutionAccording to FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell (FCC Commissioner: Return of Fairness Doctrine Could Control Web Content), there’s a danger that Congress bringing back the Fairness Doctrine would hurt bloggers by hindering their free speech rights.

In the current political climate, Democrats in Congress and presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama support bringing back the Fairness Doctrine as a means to neutralize the effectiveness of conservative talk radio. Regardless of the underlying political agenda or your personal political party affiliation, the Fairness Doctrine is a horrible idea for free speech rights.

If the doctrine is revived, Read More