Google facing Texas-sized class action lawsuit over AdWords

12 05 2009

When does the use of a trademark in third-party advertising constitute infringement? To an extent, it depends on where you are. In the US, eBay is in the clear, while the same behavior has caused it trouble in France. Google is facing similar suits in a variety of countries over the use of trademarked names in its Adwords service, and its attempts to quash one of these cases before the trial was turned down on appeal last month. Apparently, that legal setback has been taken as a sign that it’s open season on adwords, as a new class-action suit targets Google and anyone who has embedded its search ads on behalf of the entire state of Texas.

Well, maybe not the entire state, but it’s potentially a very large class. Although the lead plaintiff, a company that does business under the name of Firepond, appears to be a small outfit located in East Texas, it’s hoping that any individual or company based in the state will join in, provided they meet two conditions: they have a registered trademark and Google has sold that trademark to a competitor as part of the Adwords system at some point in the last four years. The primary limit there may be providing evidence that the trademarked name was used for advertising.

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