American Airlines Jets Google To Court

    August 17, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

The whole keyword-advertising-violates-our-trademark debate has been brought to court more than once and more than once has been unsuccessful. American Airlines, though, is perhaps the largest company to make the claim, filing a trademark violation suit against Google.

American Airlines Jets Google To Court
American Airlines Jets Google To Court

American isn’t thrilled that competitors and travel sites can bid on its company name as a keyword. Though the competitor-keyword argument has been made before, this may be a first where the plaintiff cites online retailers selling competitor wares.

It would appear, if the suit were successful, Coke could sue television stations advertising that 7-11 sells Pepsi too.

American complains that competitor keyword bidding and the ad display associated with the keywords are tantamount to getting a "free ride on American Airlines’ brands through use of Google’s technology," and that Google is guilty of "vicarious trademark infringement."

In the 55-page complaint, American asserts that "Google’s ‘Sponsored Links’ may instead redirect [searchers] to: (i) websites of airlines that compete with American Airlines; (ii) websites that sell air travel not only on American Airlines, but also on a variety of airlines that compete with American Airlines; or (iii) websites that are entirely unrelated air travel."

It may be the second argument that’s disturbing to many. Technology and Law Blog’s Eric Goldman is also skeptical:

…my working theory is that this was not a good lawsuit for American Airlines to bring. I’ve noted many times before that lawsuits over consumer "diversion" often cost more than the lost profits from the allegedly diverted consumers.