Google has been sued again for trademark infringement resulting from its AdWords program, this time by Cybersitter. Cybersitter sells software that blocks adult content on computers so they are not accessible by children.
This problem has been going on for years. Here is what happens (and actually what seems to be partially encouraged by “SEO Maximization” companies): predatory companies who use AdWords register not only the keywords pertinent to their business, but the trade name, mark, or brand of their competitors. When consumers do searches for one company, its competitor’s ads show up.
In this case, the perpetrator was Net Nanny. Net Nanny used Cybersitter’s name and brand in its Google AdWords campaigns. Cybersitter alleged that Google and Net Nanny “intentionally and wrongfully used a bait and switch strategy to confuse consumers into purchasing a competing product.”
There may be more of these kinds of suits in the future. A couple of months ago, the California Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Google in a similar lawsuit brought by Rosetta Stone. There, the Court held that a jury would have to decide whether Google’s AdWords actually did confuse consumers when allowing companies’ trademarked names to trigger the display of competitor’s ads.
If you have been the subject of trademark infringement due to a competitor’s use of your company’s trade name or brand, it is best to consult with an attorney to explore your rights.