Internet law is a bit like a Wild West frontier town without a sheriff in sight. Trademark infringement is common online.
“Trademark infringement online is not that well understood, nor do people comprehend that what they are using from someone else’s site without express permission, amounts to stealing,” Los Angeles Internet law attorney David Alden Erikson outlined.
“When it comes right down to it, trademark infringement on the Internet is out of control. Quite regularly you will see third parties using established trademarks and domain names, etc. with the trademark holder’s permission. Furthermore, the usage of third party trademarks as keywords in ads on MSN, Yahoo, Google and other ad networks is very controversial, as is using those marks in the text of ads triggered by keywords,” added Erikson.
This brings up the need to know about keyword trademark infringement. “Basically it works like this,” outlined Erikson. “Trademark law prevents third parties using established trademarks when using them would confuse consumers about the origin, sponsorship, source or affiliation between the rightful trademark holder and the third party using the mark,” he explained. Of note is that fact that keyword infringement lawsuits have been launched against companies using a trademark and companies like Google who offer the software that people use to advertise.
In a nutshell, bidding on trademarks as keywords will trigger an infringement threat letter from the holder of the trademark; which makes eminent sense, because bidding on their trademarks as a keyword for advertising competition acts to divert their consumers to the competition by taking advantage of the trademark holder’s good will.
On the other side of the fence, the person bidding for the trademark sees using it as a bonus to give consumers even more choices. In other words, the issue is whether or not keyword advertising is an illusory business or valuable marketing. The courts haven’t really delved into this issue a whole lot. Those that have agree that none of the general rules apply.
“What it all comes back down to is whether or not – the ultimate test – is whether the use of the keywords by others (than the original holder) would confuse buyers. This also brings up the concept of ‘initial interest confusion.’ This means most buyers wouldn’t be confused once they got to the competing website, but allows for a trademark infringement claim if the buyer would ‘reasonably’ have been deceived before clicking on the ad,” said David Erikson, a Los Angeles Internet law attorney.
“When push comes to shove, if you go ahead and use trademarks as keyword triggers and also use them in ad text for keyword ad programs, watch your step to avoid being sued. If in doubt, give me a call and we’ll figure it out,” offered Erikson.
To learn more about David Alden Erikson, Attorney at Law, visit http://www.daviderikson.com.