Keywords, Lawsuits, Google, and Trademark Names

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September 15, 2010 – Google’s AdWords tool allows businesses to purchase popular keywords and tie them to their website to increase search engine rankings. This practice has been going on for years, but one California businessman has challenged Google for allowing his branded building material name to be used as an AdWord.

Daniel Jurin manufacturers Styrotrim building material, and he wasn’t too happy when Google allowed websites to pay for links when “Styrotrim” was searched. The term is trademarked by Jurin and he claimed that allowing other companies to link to his trademarked name is false advertising, breach of contract, and trademark infringement, among other infractions.

Jurin’s fear was that “Styrotrim” would become a generic term for the building material type, similar to how “Jello” applies to any sort of gelatin dessert product, branded or not. The U.S. District Court had dismissed several previous claims by Jurin earlier this year, but allowed an amended complaint to be filed shortly thereafter.

In the amended complaint, Jurin claimed that the use of “Styrotrim” in Google’s AdWords is misleading to consumers. Allowing other companies to use it as a keyword to their website creates a misleading suggestion as to the producer of the good, according to Jurin. Judge Morrison England failed to see how this was true, and dismissed a large portion of the complaint earlier last week.

The false advertising claim was also dropped, as England found that the two companies were not competitors, and therefore there was no danger of a customer mistaking Google for a building material company or vice-versa.

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