1-800 Contacts In Keyword Legal Battle Again

    January 11, 2008

1-800-Contacts is suing again. They filed suit against LensWorld.com this past Tuesday, Jan. 8th. Competitor LensWorld.com bid on the keyword “1800Contacts” so when someone types it into the search engine, a LensWorld ad would show. Nothing new here (this is a routine practice in many industries, with both sides participating).

1-800 Contacts lost a case against another rival WhenU.com on the same issue. This set a precedent and following rulings were that keyword advertising isn’t considered a trademark violation. 1-800-Contacts is based in Utah and that’s where the irony starts. 1-800-Contacts was part of the opposition this past April to a controversial law to ban bidding on competitor’s keywords. Even though they were guilty of the same. The law was dropped the day it was to go into affect after Utah lawmakers had some discussions with search engines. In the meantime it was an embarrassment, as is this new development.

A case that helped set precedence was that of Geico suing Google for having letting their competitor bid on their brand name.

Just yesterday someone I know asked me for advice about his keyword woes. After spending $20k a month on AdWords his account was banned. Why? Copyright infringement – he was bidding on a brand name as an affiliate. He asked for an exception and not only was his request unanswered, his account was banned for good. No recourse and no one would who had any power to change that would so much as speak to him. So in some cases Google can come down hard on this issue, probably because of lawsuits. But it seems like this is selectively applied. What I mean is, did the company enforce this policy through Google, or did Google decide to enforce it?

I like to see freedom in advertising – customers aren’t confused when they type in 1-800-Contacts and they see another company’s name in the mix of ads. I’m not sure why 1-800-Contacts trying again, given their slim chances and double standards. Either way, I hope to see these issues stay out of court.