Price Of Competitor Keyword Data: One Subpoena

    July 6, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

A revived squabble between two recreational flooring companies has resulted in Google being subpoenaed for some of its keyword purchase data. The full implications of the order are not yet known, but third parties are nervous about being pulled in, and others worry about competitive data being de facto purchased through the courts.

Our favorite blawger (law blogger) on the scene of these cases, Eric Goldman, has been following Rhino Sports v. Sport Court for a while now. The case goes back to 2002, when Sport Court strong-armed Rhino Sports into agreeing not to use the phrase "sport court" directly or indirectly on the Internet – not for domains, sponsored links, HTML, tags, you name it.

Back in May, after sponsored ads for Rhino popped up with the keyword phrase "sport court," Sport Court dragged them back in front of the judge, who ruled at the time that under Google’s broad-match system that this type of thing could happen without Rhino’s intent.

Since then, Rhino’s been trying to wriggle out of the injunction against bidding on the keyword phrase, which may or may not be why Sport Court has issued a subpoena to Google for its records regarding all purchases of the keyword phrase, cost-per-click calculations, estimated ad positions, and search volume trends.

Apparently, Google is complying, as the company sent notices to all of its advertisers informing them of the subpoena and encouraging them file with the court if they object to Google sharing that data.

It’s unclear if others face risk of litigation if they have bid on the phrase, but what’s clear to Goldman is that this type of data would be valuable to advertisers.

"I suspect every trademark owner and SEO would LOVE to have this data," he writes. "This data may be yours for the price of a complaint and a subpoena."