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Johanne Torres[December 16, 2004]

Geico vs. Google Update: Court Favors Google in Case


Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ruled in favor of Google yesterday in a copyright infringement case trial which began Monday morning in a Virginia Federal district court. The car insurance company sued the search engine giant over its strategically sponsored rival advertisement placement practices appearing alongside search results when querying the keyword �Geico.�  This trial was said to possibly threaten to change the way Google has successfully conducted its online business forever.


Brinkema ruled that Google�s sponsored ad placement practice did not violate Geico's trademark in any way, because it could not possibly create any kind of confusion amongst customers when searching for information pertaining the car insurance company.


In an attempt to dismiss the case before trial, Google (news - quote) presented a motion that said: "Stripped of its high-tech trappings, Geico alleges only that Google permits its advertisers to compete head-to-head with Geico, by targeting their advertisements at potential Geico customers." Google's motion to dismiss the case without a trial was immediately rejected by Brinkema. The judge announced: "When defendants sell the rights to link advertising to plaintiff's trademarks, defendants are using the trademarks in commerce in a way that may imply that defendants have permission from the trademark holder to do so."


The juryless Federal court trial, expected to see resolution this week, seems to have been resolved in a lightning speed of two business days. Brinkema determined to allow for a several week-long deferment to issue an official written resolution, in order to allow both parties enough time to resolve the remaining issue concerning advertisers who use the Geico name within their ad copy.


Yesterday�s ruling set Google free to continue its keyword bidding model of allowing competitors to bid to appear when consumers search for trademarked business names.


In addition to suing Google, the car insurance company also accused Web portal Yahoo! and paid listings provider Overture for placing paid ad listings from other car insurance companies next to the Geico search results. Yahoo!, (news - quote) along with Overture settled with Geico two weeks ago. Terms of that settlement were not released at press time.


Johanne Torres is contributing editor for and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at


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