Sunday, November 14, 2004
Should Google Ban Trademarks?
First off, go read John Battelle's post, then come back here, because he lays out a lot of important stuff.
So, the simple question is what should Google do about trademarked keywords? Obviously, there is a benefit to the searching consumer, since a search for, example, a Cadillac Escalade, will have an ad directing you to a site selling that exact product. Obviously, there is a problem for the searching consumer, since a search for, example, a Swiss Army Knife, will have an ad directing you to a site that makes cheap knockoffs but doesn't clearly state it is not actually the Victorinox company. Obviously, there is a problem for Google, since a search for, example, Geico, will have an ad for one of Geico's competitors. And Geico will sue you for selling their trademark. A trademark you surely do not own. And win. And cost you hundreds of millions of dollars. And make Sergey cry.
So, what to do? Forcing Google to not sell trademarks would be tantamount to saying the Sears catalog cannot mention the trademarks of SONY, who built the TV they are trying to sell. On the other hand, no one would ever say anyone could sell the word Sears to Home Depot for advertising purposes. That is about the most absurd misuse of trademark law, and no lawyer could ever argue it and win.
At some point Google will either A) realize Geico will win and settle or B) Google will be hit by more lawsuits, and change its policies, and settle with more companies. There is no way Google will be allowed to essentially sell other companies trademarks. Trademarks are property, and no one else can make profit off of them. Google's strategy, to prove it is even-handed by selling even more trademarks, is doomed to be a colossal failure. One can only hope they figure it out before more lawsuits come down the pike.
Of course, I basically said all of this back in September.