U.S. District Court Judge Issues Written Decision in Geico v. Google AdWords Case

Out-Law.com reports that the judge in the Geico v. Google case recently released a written version of her ruling in a case that made news last December.

From the Out-Law.com post:

A US district court has ruled against Google in a trade mark action over the sale of the terms ?Geico? and ?Geico Direct? in AdWords, its keyword advertising service. The judge found that there was infringement where the terms were used in the text of sponsored ads…In a ruling issued on Monday [8/8/05], Judge Brinkema ruled that GEICO had ?established a likelihood of confusion? and that there had been a breach of the insurance firm?s trade mark rights ?solely with regard to those sponsored links that use GEICO’s trade marks in their headings or text.” According to GEICO, the court has stayed the trial for 30 days to give the parties an opportunity to settle. If the parties do not settle, the trial will continue on the question of damages and on the issue of who is liable: Google or Google’s advertisers.

Postscript: Google has sent along some comments about this SEW post and the link to the Out-Law.com story I included. Thanks. 

I saw your post on the GEICO ruling and thought it might be helpful to clarify a few things. The recent ruling by the judge in this case was essentially a written version of the judge’s oral ruling of December 15, 2004. Her ruling was an extraordinary victory for Google. In the critical part of the decision, the judge ruled unequivocally in Google’s favor.

In her written ruling, she stated that the evidence “refutes the allegation that the use of the trademark as a keyword, without more, causes a likelihood of confusion.” That confirms that Google’s policy on trademarks and keywords is lawful.

There was another issue in the case that concerned the use of trademarks in ad text, but that part of the case was not significant and Google already has a policy that addresses this concern – and we always have. Here’s a reference to that:http://www.google.com/tm_complaint_adwords.html

And here is an excerpt from the trademark policy that you will find there: “When we receive a complaint from a trademark owner, we will only investigate whether the advertisements at issue are using terms
corresponding to the trademarked term in the advertisement’s content. If they are, we will require the advertiser to remove the trademarked term from the content of the ad and prevent the advertiser from using the trademarked term in ad content in the future. Please note that we will not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint.”

Google is extremely pleased with the outcome in this case. The important issue for us in it – which is the use of trademarks as keyword triggers – was decided decisively in our favor.

Michael Kwun
Litigation Counsel
Google Inc.

Related reading

traffic forecasting customer journey
Making the case for more non-brand funding in paid search
Five things to do on a small digital marketing budget
The fall of ad copy, long live ad copy