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Utah Updates Anti-Competitive Keyword Bid Bill

Sponsor changes tune after meeting w/Google, AOL, & Microsoft

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Google faced a serious crimp in its business if Utah enacted legislation that would ban the search advertising company from allowing competitors to trigger ads with keywords.

Last April, plenty of people queued up to criticize Utah’s Trademark Protection Act. The state’s General Counsel, the EFF, and Danny Sullivan all took turns calling it a bad idea.

Nearly a year later, someone listened. And the Google Public Policy blog applauded:

Although the Utah law had not yet been enforced, it represented a big potential problem for consumers and advertisers alike. Consumers would have been prevented from seeing the kind of comparative ads that help them get the best deal possible. And businesses (including small businesses) would have been prevented from advertising products that they sell.

The law also would have hurt free speech, with citizens being unable to run ads in protest of a certain company’s business practices, for example.

Fortunately, the Utah legislature amended the bill this week and removed the provisions of the law which prohibited this type of keyword advertising.

At the time, the bill looked like a clever little reach for revenue by the Utah legislature. Trademark owners would have paid $250 to have their marks entered into a database, to be checked by search engines to avoid infringing upon them.

Not everyone found the change to their satisfaction. Utah-based 1-800-Contacts wanted the bill passed as it was, and complained bitterly about the amending that took place, according to ClickZ:

1-800 Contacts General Counsel Joe Zeidner doesn’t think the threat of lawsuits is the real reason for Eastman’s decision to appease the search giants. “(Utah Senator Dan Eastman) must have had some secret agreement with these big search companies,” said Zeidner. “We are still just dumbfounded.”

1-800-Contacts plans to continue “four or five” legal disputes over trademarks, with Zeidner threatening to make the Trademark Protection Act an issue again.

Utah Updates Anti-Competitive Keyword Bid Bill
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