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Rosetta Stone Gears up for a Battle Against Google and the Future of Adwords

November 5, 2010 by
Filed under: law, trademark, Trademark Articles 

By Caroline Kotila

Google has been the target of a tremendous amount of litigation in regards to intellectual property, as would be expected for such an industry giant.  The most recent target has been their tool AdWords, which generates ads based on keywords that users input into Google’s search engine.  The problem occurs when a company has trademarked a term, and a competitor uses that term to have their product show up as an ad next to the relevant links .  For example, if Lexus were to buy the keyword “BMW” through AdWords, anyone who searched for the BMW X5 could expect to see an advertisement for the Lexus RX350.  This method of advertising leads many companies to argue that Google has infringed their trademark.

In 2007, Rosetta Stone filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming that their trademark had been infringed by the use of AdWords to advertise competing language software. The company lost its case this August and has sought appeal by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Rosetta Stone argues that Google’s use of AdWords to generate revenue by selling these trademarked competitors, who ultimately piggy-back off the success of the larger companies, is unlawful.  Additionally, Rosetta Stone alleges that the use of AdWord has caused widespread “consumer confusion” due to conflicting ads.  The company is hoping that the Circuit Court will overturn the Virginia Federal District Court’s decision in favor of Google.

Rosetta Stone has many supporters in their case, as many companies disapprove of Google’s AdWords policy.  Numerous large companies have stated that they will file Amicus Briefs supporting Rosetta Stone, including Ford Motor Company, Carfax, PetMed Express,  1-800 Contacts, and many others. As the market for web advertising is growing this case will have a major impact on how search engines can generate their revenue and the power of registered marks in the context of internet technology.

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