Wisconsin Appeals Court Punts on the Legality of Buying People’s Names for Keyword Advertising–Habush v. Cannon

25 06 2012

By Eric Goldman

Habush v. Cannon, 2012 WL 2345137 (Wis. App. Ct. June 21, 2012). The case record. My prior blog post on this case.

You may recall this case. Habush Habush & Rottier and Cannon & Dunphy are both leading personal injury law firms in Wisconsin. The Cannon firm bought the names “Habush” and “Rottier” as keywords for its competitive keyword ads. Habush and Rottier then sued the Cannon firm and its principals for violations of Wisconsin’s publicity rights statute. To my knowledge, this is the only pending lawsuit over keyword advertising triggered by a person’s name, and there’s no direct precedent on point. Furthermore, the publicity rights doctrine is so under-theorized that no one really knows how to define its boundaries. Because of the doctrinal morass and the technological underpinnings, this case is giving judges fits. The lower court judge ruled for the defense but wrote an odd opinion, and basically expressed resignation knowing that he was going to be appealed no matter what he ruled.


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