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Wednesday, February 4th, 2004

Google Legal Battle Threatens SERPs

 

Google is being sued by American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. for trademark infringement. The case, which was originally thought to only involve AdWords bids on terms associated with American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc., has now grown to cover the traditional (free) results produced by Google. According to EWeek, David Rammelt of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, the Chicago based firm representing American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. said, “Our concerns are not just limited to the paid, sponsored links. We are seeing competitors listed when our trademarks are being typed verbatim.” Terms that concern Rammelt include, “American Blinds” and “American Blind”. Oddly enough, the litigant appears in the Top10 under the keyword phrase “American Blind”, just below sites dedicated to visually impaired Americans and Helen Keller.

Chances are, Google will win this suit, at least as it relates to the traditional (free) listings. The case does open a dangerous can-of-worms however as search terms and target keyword phrases may need to be rethought to avoid any trademark infringement in the future. An interesting feature of this case may be the public airing of Google’s ranking algorithms as Rammelt and his team dissects Google’s ranking methods in open court. The SEO community will likely watch this one very closely.

The success of the litigant would make search engines as we know them, sort of useless. Imagine a search tool being able to guarantee corporate rivals creating similar products could not appear under related keyword phrases if one of the corporations owned trademark rights to those keywords and phrases. A note to greedy lawyers, Just do it.


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