Company Loses Competitor Keywords In Metatags Dispute

    September 8, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

In a reversal of what is generally considered the real world and what is virtual, metatags suddenly matter in a court of law, even if they haven’t mattered online for some time now. For one defendant, they matter as much as just under a half-million dollars matters.

Dropping keywords into the metatags of a website is an old school SEO technique. And by old school I mean pre-googlistoric. Stuffing metatags in the age of Google, which ignores them, is about as useful as peacock feathers on an armadillo.

Even so, McGills Glass Warehouse owes Venture Tape Corp. $426, 487 in damages in and attorney fees (not to mention five years of its own litigation costs) because they dropped Venture Tape’s trademark in the metatags, dressed in white on white, which did basically nothing to drive to traffic to the website.

A competitor’s trademark as a keyword in the metatag is intended to lure competitor traffic. White text on white background is an attempt to hide the practice. This last element, at least in part, seems to be what really stuck in the judge’s craw.

In addition, the judge decided using trademark keywords counts as a use in commerce, which has been debated for some time, and that McGills had satisfied 7 out of 8 conditions in determining infringement, the remaining unsatisfied condition being one of actual consumer confusion—apparent intent to confuse would seem to suffice.

Despite what happens in the courts eventually (it’s not looking good for defendants, though), blawger Eric Goldman, who’s written extensively on the trademark in metatags issue, advises webmasters just to steer clear of the practice. Too big a risk for so little reward.