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Update 19: August 24, 2004

1. And again: Google has been sued because of trademark infringement!

The complaint, filed by plaintiff Government Employees Insurance Co. (Geico) against defendant search engine companies Google Inc. and Overture Services Inc. on May 4, 2004 alleges that defendants by selling  the famed "Geico" mark as adword so that the protected term can appear in sponsored search results, are infringing on the complainent's trademark. According to the suit, that practice causes consumer confusion in violation of the Lanham Act, the primary federal law covering trademark registration and protection.  Geico has asked for a permanent injunction, attorneys' fees and damages.

And finally something for fans of conspiracy theories: Geico is not only the largest direct marketer of auto insurances in the United States, which makes it the most high-profile American company to have filed a complaint against Google over their adwords, but also a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company owned by Warren Buffett. Buffett is rumored to be a good friend of Bill Gates. The start of the search engine war against Google?

  • May 19, 2004: Olsen, Stefanie, Geico sues Google, Overture over trademarks, ZDNet
    "Auto insurance company Geico has sued Google and Overture Services for allegedly violating its trademarks in search-related advertisements, in the latest legal salvo against the Internet companies."


2. Illegal link to the "Best anti-Bush ad" ever

On June 27, the anti-Moore Web site posted a link to an illegal version of the film "Fahrenheit 9/11" available elsewhere on a file-sharing network, noting that Moore himself has publicly backed downloading the movie online. Moore is qouted: “I don’t agree with the copyright laws, and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people. As long as they’re not doing it to make a profit, you know, as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labor. I would oppose that.”

  • July 5, 2004: Roth, Wolf-Dieter, Michael Moore: "Raubkopieren ist erlaubt, solange niemand daran verdient", Telepolis:
    "Die Gegner von Michael Moore hofften schon auf einen spektakulären Prozess, doch der Dicke hält Wort: Solange es kostenlos geschieht, gilt für ihn: P2P und Brenner frei!"

  • July 2, 2004: Streit um Michael-Moore-Film im Internet, Heise:
    " Jim Kenefick sieht sich im Recht und hat auf seiner Website ein Tondokument verlinkt, laut dem Moore gesagt haben soll, er habe keine Probleme damit, wenn Web-Surfer den Film über P2P-Tauschbörsen verbreiten."

  • July 2, 2004: «Fahrenheit 9/11» kursiert im Netz, Netzzeitung:
    "Wie nicht anders zu erwarten, ist eine erste Kopie des neuen Michael-Moore-Films in Online-Tauschbörsen aufgetaucht. Eine Anti-Moore-Website hat den Link darauf verbreitet."

  • July 1, 2004: Borland, John, 'Fahrenheit 9/11' sparks file-sharing flare-up,
    "The political firestorm surrounding filmmaker Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" has found its way into the file-sharing world."


3. Google updates Toolbar - introduces Browse by Name

In July Google added a new feature to its toolbar that allows users to navigate the Web by typing in a name instead of a URL. Now, to search, you simply type the name or description of the site you're looking for. If there's a strong match, Google will go straight to that page. If users type in a name that isn't specific or well recognized, the toolbar automatically performs a Google search on the subject, giving users a choice of destinations to choose from, the company said.

  • July 16, 2004: Neue Google-Toolbar für den IE versteht Begriffseingaben, Golem:
    "Google hat seine Google Toolbar für den Internet Explorer überarbeitet und bietet ab sofort eine neue Version zum Download an. Als Neuerung wurde nun die Möglichkeit integriert, dass Begriffe direkt eingegeben werden können und Google versucht, dazu die passende Webseite zu finden. Außerdem werden damit Webseiten-Adressen bei der Eingabe vervollständigt."

  • July 15, 2004: Sherman, Chris, Google Toolbar Adds Keyword Browsing to Internet Explorer, Searchenginewatch:
    "Google has added a keyword based browsing feature to its toolbar, allowing users to type words rather than URLs into the Internet Explorer address bar and automatically see the "most relevant" site for those terms."

  • July 15, 2004: Google kapert MSIE-Adresszeile,
    "Der Google Toolbar wurde um die Funktion "Browse by Name" erweitert."


4. Hyperlinks do not violate Norwegian copyright or marketing laws

Accordings to a Norwegian district court ruling hyperlinks to a competitor's database website do not violate Norway's Copyright Act or Marketing Practices Act (Finn Eiendom AS and v. Notar AS (Trondheim D. Ct.), 162): "Surface Hyperlinking is a normal practice on the internet"


5. The gold medal for stupid linking policy goes to ...

There have always been reports about webmasters that don't like links pointing to their websites. First they sued - mostly because of deep links - and lost in many European countries (e.g. Austria, Germany) and in the USA - remember the Ticketmaster case? Than they tried to restrict the right to link with "stupid" linking policies and ridiculed themselves (the websites of Prof. Sorkin and Links & Law feature lists of companies that do so in the USA and in Germany). And are they getting smarter now? Guess not! Take a look at the official Olympic website and their Hyperlink policy: If you want to link to their site you have to send a request letter to the Internet Department stating e.g. a short description of your site, the url of your site, the publishing period (How about linking for three months?...) and the reason for linking (I always wanted to link to your site, I very much admire its content....)! And finally you are only allowed to use the term "ATHENS 2004" and no other term as the text referent...


New in legal resources:

  • Altenburger, Dieter, Hyperlinks - Haftung für fremde Inhalte, LexisNexis Ard Orac"-Verlag (Wien)

  • Libertus, Michael, Rechtsfragen der Abwehr unerwünschter Hyperlinks, TKMR 2004, 60-64

  • Lapp, Thomas, Zulässigkeit von Deep Links, IT-Rechtsberater 2004, 114-116

  • Ernst, Stefan, Suchmaschinenmarketing (Keyword-Advertising, Doorwaypages u.ä) im Wettbewerbs- und Markenrecht, WRP 2004, 278 ff. 

  • Romanek, Broc, Hyperlinks, 2001

  • Padawer, Heidi S., Note. Google this: search engine results weave a web for trademark infringement actions on the Internet. 81 Wash. U. L.Q. 1099-1122 (2003)

  • Dahm, Andrew L., Note. Database protection v. deep linking. 82 Tex. L. Rev. 1053-1089 (2004).

  • Joyce, Stephen, Links to Competitor's Web Site Did Not Violate Norwegian Copyright, Marketing Laws, Electronic Commerce & Law Report 2004, 162

  • Link to Business With Forum Contacts No Support for Jurisdiction Over Site Operator, Electronic Commerce & Law Report 2004, 406 f.

  • Google's Sale of Marks as Search Terms Challenged, Electronic Commerce & Law Report 2004, 477

  • Norway: The DVD Case, CRInt. 2004, 53-55

  • Ott, Stephan, Anmerkung zum Urteil des OLG München vom 12.02.2004 - Az 29 U 4564/03, MMR 2004, 322 f.

  • Ott, Stephan, Die urheberrechtliche Zulässigkeit des Framing nach der BGH-Entscheidung im Fall "Paperboy", ZUM 2004, 357 ff.

  • Lorenz, Mathias, Eine Analyse der Internetpräsentationen von Rechtsanwälten im Bereich der Rechtsanwaltskammern Saarbrücken und Schleswig vor dem Hintergrund ausgewählter Regelungen des Berufsrechts, Wettbewerbsrechts und Teledienstegesetzes, JurPC Web-Dok. 225/2004




The Links & Law website is updated regularily, so  check back for updated information and resources about search engine and linking issues.

You are currently in the archive with older news. A complete list of the updates can be found here!

Latest News - Update 71

Legal trouble for YouTube in Germany

Germany: Employer may google job applicant

EU: Consultation on the E-Commerce-Directive

WIPO Paper on tradmarks and the internet

The ECJ and the AdWords Cases



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