Suppose Someone Buys Your Adword

Google Here's a great marketing idea: take out an advertisement displaying the logo and pictures of the top firm in your field.  But where the contact information appears, put in your own phone number and email address.  Imagine all the business you'll get!

That's exactly what's going with Google and Yahoo adwords.

Law Office Computing has a fascinating article "AdWords Spark Debate" on page 26 of the February/March 2005 issue about this.  Adwords are terms you can buy, so that when a person types that word in a search, your ad appears next to the results.

So what if someone buys an adword that is your trademarked term?  Google makes $1 billion a year selling adwords and will be delighted to sell the name of your firm, trademark or personal name to a competitor.

OvertureGeico insurance filed a trademark infringement suit in in federal court in Alexandria, VA, against Google and Overture (owned by Yahoo), charging they sold the adword "Geico" to competitors, causing confusion for Geico's customers.  I just tried it: I typed Geico in Google and got ads for,,, and in the right column of the results page.

Of course in the LEFT side of the page listing the search results -- the part of the page that counts -- Geico was all the listings, so I wasn't very confused.  Nevertheless, I think Geico's in the right.  Buying adwords for a competitor's name, tagline or personnel is wrong and I hope the people who do it pay millions in damages. I hope Google and Yahoo have to disgorge their ill-gotten profits.

Ostermiller complained about the tactic and Cowgill gave up the adword.  Click here for Kevin O'Keefe's summary of this story.

It's the wild west out there on the Web, and you better have your Winchester ready to defend your good name.  Start by calling up and screaming at the person who bought your name as an adword, follow up with a nastygram and finish them off with a lawsuit, right between the eyes.

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