Keyword Infringement? : American Airlines Claims Google Violated Trademark Laws

by Paul Goetz

Aug. 24, 2007

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A recent suit filed by American Airlines brings into question Google’s use of searchable keywords used for sponsored links. American is suing Google for selling trademarked terms to other companies. This allows for someone to search the web for a phrase (e.g., “American Airlines”) and get results including not only American’s paid advertising but also links to related companies.

The suit, filed in a Fort Worth, Texas, district court, accuses Google of violating trademark laws by selling search terms to other companies. This is not the first time Google has gone to court over claims of trademark violation. It prevailed in a 2004 case against auto insurance company GEICO.

The New York Times quotes Google spokesman Jon Murchison as saying the company is “confident that our trademark policy strikes a proper balance between trademark owners’ interests and consumer choice and that our position has been validated by decisions in previous trademark cases.”

The federal court judge denied Google’s request in October 2007 to dismiss the case.