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Trademark Dispute Causes Geico To Sue Google And Overture

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-05-18

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Ever since Google and Overture have allowed competitors to bid on trademarked keywords, legal trouble have not been far behind them. Google is facing lawsuits in Europe and the US because of its trademark policy. Add auto insurance company Geico to the list of companies that have filed suit for improper trademark use.

As reported in News.com, Geico filed its suit on May 4, 2004 in Alexandria, VA. The complaint stated that Overture and Google had infringed on the company's trademarks when they sold them as keywords. Geico states that this practice is a violation of the Lanham Act which was created protects trademarks.

Google's policy on trademarked keywords in the US and Canada is as follows:

"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."

Overture has a different approach to keywords than Google does. The company will allow bids "only if the advertiser presents content on its Web site that (a) refers to the trademark or its owner or related product in a permissible nominative manner without creating a likelihood of consumer confusion or (b) uses the term in a generic or merely descriptive manner. In addition, the advertiser's listing should disclose the nature of the relevant content."

The policy goes on to say: "If you have a concern that a search term associated with an advertiser's listing is an improper use of a term that is a trademark, Overture will review the advertiser's listing for compliance with our relevancy guidelines and, if appropriate, Overture will remove the advertiser's listing or the content of the listing's title or description will be modified."

Concerning the policies of the two companies, Janice Minshall of Geico said, "this practice deliberately misleads consumers and allows Geico's competitors and these defendants to illegally exploit for their own commercial purposes Geico's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in its brand."

Geico is seeking damages as well as an injunction against the two companies that would cease the use of its trademarks.

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