1-800-Contacts has filed a lawsuit in federal court against LensWorld for buying search links that were triggered by the keyword “1-800-contacts.” 1-800-contacts has filed several other similar cases, and says that they are doing so in order to prevent confusion.
1-800-Contacts, whose headquarters are in Draper, Utah, is amongst several other Utah lawsuits filed recently relating to the use of trademarked terms in online advertising. Last year, Utah passed a law that made it illegal to use other companies’ trademarked terms to trigger ads, but the law has not yet gone into effect.
This latest lawsuit dealing with trademarks in online advertising, brings to mind another case from a few years ago, in which the auto insurance company Geico took search giant Google to court. In this case, a federal judge ruled that Geico hadn’t proven that consumers were confused when shown links to Geico rivals after having typed “Geico” into the search box.
In another instance, Google was also brought to court by Rescuecom, a computer repair company. This case was dismissed before trial when a federal court ruled that a rival company’s use of Rescuecom to trigger ads doesn’t violate trademark law.
So while it is apparent that thus far the law is on the side of the companies selling the ads, with 1-800-contacts again bringing the issue to court, previous rulings with either be confirmed once again, or the search marketing industry could be in for a major shake-up.
If the judge in the case of 1-800-contacts decides that allowing rivals to purchase trademarked keywords to pull up advertising for their own company is in fact an issue of trademark infringement, it could bring the entire search marketing industry to a screeching halt, affecting not only the purchasers of ads, but those companies selling the ads, such as Google and Yahoo. Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law, says “That would have a noticeable effect on the online advertising industry.”