Google AdWords and Net Nanny Sued by CyberSitter for Trademark Infringement

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.

Travolta Sued Again – This Time for Libel

John Travolta and his attorney Martin Singer have been sued for libel by Robert Randolph, author of the book “You’ll Never Spa in this Town Again.” Randolph’s book was allegedly about his gay encounters with Travolta.

Randolph accuses Travolta and Singer of spreading false statements about his mental health to discredit the book. Apparently, Singer, on behalf of Travolta, had written a letter to a gossip blog about the book, presumably to prevent the blog from publishing content about it. Randolph accuses the letter of being libelous.

What is interesting about the Chicago Tribune’s coverage on this story is that the Trib describes the two sexual assault lawsuits against Travolta as being “swiftly dropped” by the accusers “after doubt was cast on the details of their alleged encounters.”

This makes it seem as though the accusers were fabricating allegations.  Usually when suits are settled, money is paid specifically in exchange for the accusers to promptly drop their lawsuits. So no determination has been made on whether Travolta sexually assaulted the accusers or not, if the suits were settled by a monetary payment.  In that case, the truth will likely never be known due to confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions that are regularly found in settlement agreements.

Kevin Costner Sued by Neighbor Over Too-Tall Hedges

With the lawsuit against Steven Baldwin freshly decided in his favor, Kevin Costner is embroiled again in another legal battle: this time, with his neighbor.

Costner’s Carpinteria, California neighbor Rick Grimm, an investment banker, has filed a lawsuit over the trees and shrubs planted by Costner to protect his privacy, which now block Grimm’s ocean view. Apparently, covenants on the properties established in 1957 prevent hedges from being grown over six (6) feet.

The neighbor is seeking $150,000 damages for loss of enjoyment and $500,000 for damages to his property value if the trees are not removed.   Grimm also wants an order compelling Costner to chop down the trees.

If Costner did violate the convenants restricting use of the land, then it will be very difficult for him to win this lawsuit.  Generally, it is hard to challenge covenants and succeed, because they are usually established by the devleopers of their property long before warring neighbors take title and ownership to their houses.

$600 Bowflex Dumbbell Weights Recalled Due to Injury Hazard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall of about 17,000 Bowflex® SelectTech® 1090 Dumbbells because of an injury hazard. Apparently, the weight selector dial is defective, and can cause the weight plates to fall if the dumbells are lifted from their cradle.  There have been at least 16 reports of the failure of the weight selector dial, and three injuries to the user’s foot or leg.

The Bowflex Dumbbells were available at Nautilus.com and other online retailers from May 2011 through August 2011 for about $600.

And yes, they were made in China.

If you have been injured by a defective product, click here for a confidential assessment of your case by an attorney.

New Recall of Infant Formula from China Due to Mercury Poisoning

Another day, another toxic product manufactured by China.

China’s biggest milk producer Yili Industrial Group has recalled its baby formula due to high levels of mercury.   According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, high levels of mercury can cause poisoning and damage the brain and kidneys.

This is the second major contamination affecting China-produced infant formula, the worst of which happened in 2008 when melamine-laced formula sickened nearly 300,000 infants and killed 6.

The pollution could have been from coal-fired plants or additives caused by fish, contaminated packaging, or the whey powder that Chinese milk processors import.

There have been other contaminations.  In December,  products by a certain Chinese manufacturer were destroyed after they were found to contain aflatoxin, which can cause severe liver damage. The Beijing Food Safety Administration identified 10 infractions of food safety dating as far back as November 2011, including two at a Wal-Mart store in Beijing in March.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to bring claims against manufacturers physically located in China for manufacturing toxic products, mostly because the Chinese court system does not recognize U.S. judgments and because the Chinese legal system is itself extremely limited in the avenues for recovery it provides injured parties. Due to these impediments, many U.S. citizens, families, and children suffer injury or property damage due to products or foods manufactured in China every year.

If you or a loved one has been sickened or injured due to toxic products manufactured in China, click here for a confidential evaluation of your case and potential legal rights.