Excite, Netscape Sued Over Banner Ads

Excite, Netscape Sued Over Banner Ads

From The Search Engine Report
March 3, 1999

Playboy has followed Estie Lauder's lead in suing Excite over keyword-linked banner ads. At issue in both cases is whether Excite has the right to sell banner advertising linked to trademarked terms to anyone other than the trademark holders. Netscape has also been named in the Playboy suit, as Excite handles advertising for its site.

Search engines have long sold banner ads linked to search terms. For instance, enter "cars" at any of the search engines, and you'll get targeted ads from makers such as Honda, Chevrolet and Toyota. Now it seems likely that the courts will decide whether search engines have the same right to sell ads linked to trademarked-terms without the owner's permission.

In the Estie Lauder case, three of the company's subsidiaries filed suit on January 19 against Excite. Particular complaints include the fact that a search for "Estie Lauder" or "Origins" brings up banner ads for sites run by The Fragrance Counter, a fragrance and cosmetics retailer. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

The Playboy suit is similar. Playboy filed suit in early February against Excite and Netscape for serving up banner ads for other sites when users search for "playboy." It also claims that the type of ads appearing sully its reputation. The site was filed with the U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

I'm slated to be an expert witness against Playboy in the Terri Welles case, which involves the use of trademarked terms in meta tags. Consequently, I won't be commenting on these latest suits. However, you will find coverage in the articles below.

Search engine advertising drives companies to court
Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1999

A good article with one big mistake. The courts have not ruled that trademarked terms cannot be used in meta tags. In the Terri Welles case, the court ruled use of trademarked terms was just and appropriate.

Playboy sues Netscape, Excite over ads
San Jose Business Journal, Feb. 22, 1999

Another good review of facts and issues in the case.

Lawsuits Challenge Sales of Keywords to Advertisers
Internet World, Feb. 22, 1999

Playboy fights for trademark protection
News.com, Feb. 11, 1999

Lawsuit Filed Over Keyword Search Ad
InternetNews.com, Jan. 29, 1999

Covers the report that Excite is being sued by Estie Lauder for selling banner ads using Estie Lauder trademarks to a competing fragrance company. Also see the article below

Mascara Mogul Sues Excite
Wired, Jan. 28, 1999

Online Advertising Discussion List

Comments both pro and con were raised during February, plus a statement from Estee Lauder was circulated. The online archives are currently down, but there is a way to get archives via email.


Enter a search term, and you'll then see banner ads from various major search engines that appear in response.

Search Engines and Legal Issues

Links and resources relating to meta tag disputes and other issues.