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Update 51: August 19, 2007

1. Defamation Lawsuit: Gene Phillips v. Google

Gene Philips, a Dallas businessman found some allegedly false, misleading and defamatory statements about him on the internet e.g. a Dallas Business Journal article, which implies that Philips knowingly participated in organzied crime activities (he was found not guilty of all the charges brought against him). And guess, who he is suing. Correct answer is Google! He claims that by providing a link to the articles, Google publishes the false statements...

 Search engine should be protected by 47 USC 230 against such claims and I can see no way, how the plaintiff can get around this defense.

Phillips v. Google Inc., 3:2007-cv-01236 (N.D. Tex. complaint filed June 4, 2007; removed from state court July 11, 2007)


2. Google looses Gmail trademark case in Germany ... again!

In 2005, Google has changed the name of its German email service to "Google Mail", because Daniel Giersch, who allegedly owns the rights to "G-Mail" in Germany and started using the mark for his own physical mail service in 2000, won at both the preliminary and final stages of the litigation before the district court in Hamburg. But Google did appeal the decision and now has lost again (Az 5 U 87/06). This could be the end of this long-running case in Germany over the "Gmail" trade mark, because the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in Hamburg denied Google leave to appeal to the Germany's Federal Court. Google's last chance is to file for non-admission of the ruling at the Federal Court to prevent the ruling from taking effect.

According to Information Week Google said in an e-mailed statement: "Google owns the 'Gmail' trademark in over 60 countries worldwide and we have used it ever since we launched the service in 2004. While we regret the German court's decision, it will in no way affect our ability to continue to provide Web e-mail to our users in Germany. Our German users will continue to use 'Google Mail' and enjoy the same experience as users of Gmail worldwide."

In addition to the lawsuit in Germany, Google is also taking action against Giersch in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.

  • July 5, 2007: Williams, Chris, German courts demand no more Gmail squabbling, The Register:
    " German courts have banned Google from further attempts to wrestle the rights to the "Gmail" trademark away from a businessman who registered the name several years before it launched a webmail service"


3. Google may have to reveal AdWord secrets

In 2002,  Sport Court sued Rhino for trademark infringement, and a year later, Rhino agreed to an injunction restricting it from using the "Sport Court" trademark "on or in connection with the Internet. Then, in early May 2007, Sport Court accused Rhino of violating the injunction, claiming that the company had purchased the "sport court" keyword phrase on Google AdWords.

But Rhino had merely purchased the "broad match" terms "court" and "basketball court," not the specific term "sport court." So the court rejected plaintiff's claim, but he has now issued a subpoena to Google, requesting information on "all purchases of 'sport court' as a keyword," "associated cost per click calculations," "estimated ad positions for the keyword," and "search volume trends for the keyword." That includes information about Sport Court's AdWords account as well as the accounts of other businesses.

Google has sent out a warning letter to an undisclosed number of its advertisers to inform them of the civil subpoena it received, and given them until July 19th to respond. If those advertisers do not formally object, Google may give over their ad data to legal authorities. The letter was posted on the Technology and Marketing Law Blog.

The subpoena


4. ACCC takes Google to court over sponsored links

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing Google over alleged misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to sponsored links.

The accusations:

1. Google is failing to create a clear enough distinction between its ”organic” search results and the adverts.

2. Google, by causing that ads for a company appeared on their site when users entered the names of competing firms, engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974  (Trading Post, who was also sued, had purchased ads next to the search terms 'Kloster Ford' and 'Charlestown Toyota', two of its leading competitors).

The case has been listed for preliminary hearing on August 21.

5. In short:

  • I wont be covering all the YouTube lawsuits here in detail, because they are hardly search engine law related (even though Google owns YouTube). But I will point out the most important developments with links to other sources. For the latest news in the Tur v. YouTube lawsuit see: The Register, Proto- YouTube copyright suit lives on to darken another Google day and Technology & Marketing Law Blog, Tur v. YouTube SJ Motions Denied.

  • Google calls itself Guge in China, because Chinese people allegedly have problems pronouncing Google. Guge Science and Technology Ltd. Co. doesn't like this and wants Google to change its commercial name. In a lawsuit brought before a Beijing court the company alleges it is constantly disturbed by people calling up its office trying to contact the search engine. So the plaintiff claims that U.S. search engine's registered Chinese name is too similar to its own and has harmed its operations. For more information see: Cheeky China company says to sue Google over name.

  • No update without new AdWords related trademark law cases, this time:, Inc. v., Inc., 2007 WL 1821153 (E.D.N.Y. June 12, 2007). According to Eric Goldman this is the fourth court in a Second Circuit jurisdiction voting that buying keyword ads isn't a trademark use in commerce. See: Another Court in 2d Cir. Says Buying Keyword Ads Isn't TM Use in v.
    American Airlines filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth against Google over the Internet company's sale of keyword ads for rivals triggered by its own trademarks seeking unspecified damages - American Airlines v. Google, 4:07-cv-00487 (N.D. Tex. complaint filed Aug. 16, 2007)

  • Google and Belgian newspaper group Copiepresse are still attempting to resolve their conflict out of court. Plaintiffs argue that Google profits unfairly by posting snippets of its members' news stories on Google's Web sites without paying for their use. See Google Appeals Belgian Copyright Ruling.


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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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