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Another Search Engine Marketing Trademark Lawsuit? Si, claro!

Although probably not earth-shattering to eMediaLaw’s readers to learn of such litigation, a new lawsuit brought by Rosetta Stone is likely a harbinger of things to come and deserves a closer look.  

Rosetta Stone, the foreign language teaching system and not the actual artifact that helped us interpret ancient hieroglyphics, is not pleased because a Google search pulls up sponsored links named “Don’t Buy Rosetta Software,” and “Rosetta Spanish a Scam?”  The case is discussed here on the Wall Street Journal Blog.  Last month the Wall Street Journal did a more detailed article about various problematic search marketing techniques here.

While others in this position have sued Google, Rosetta Stone has chosen to go after its competitor Rocket Languages (and others) for allegedly bidding on Rosetta Stone’s trademarked name. The suit also claims Rocket Languages, through affiliates, uses web sites as “comparison reviews” of Rosetta Stone without revealing the reviews are paid for by Rocket Languages. You can review the actual lawsuit here.

Suits against Google have received most of the media attention (as discussed my prior post here), but this one may be more important to internet marketers and most businesses. Many businesses in the same boat as Rosetta Stone do not have the resources to take on Google like American Airlines, GEICO and American Blinds have done.  Going after direct competitors levels the playing field dramatically. The direct competitors are the ones doing the bidding on the trademarked names and have more of a direct “use” of the trademarked term in commerce than Google.  That is the first hurdle for plaintiffs in trademark lawsuits which is why more than one case has been dismissed against Google.  I suspect we will see much more of these suits in the future compared to knock down goliath battles against Google attacking the behemoth search engine’s business model.

The only drawback towards this tactic is that if Rosetta Stone is victorious against Rocket Languages and its co-conspirators, it may be binding only against them. The next conspirator can bid on “Rosetta Stone” requiring another lawsuit.  It will also be interesting if the allegedly suspect “comparison review” sites are just enough to tip this case in favor of Rosetta Stone compared to merely bidding on trademarked terms which is much more common.  I suspect, however, if Rosetta Stone is successful once or twice against competitors, the mere precedent will be enough to deter others. We will keep an eye on this case as it progresses.

TRAVEL BONUS:

Posting will be light for the next week because of travel. I therefore added a link to this story from the Jerusalem Post about Iran’s new law that allows for the death penalty for online postings. Previously, only drug trafficking and disparaging Islam could result in death, according to the article. Now, the article states, bloggers and editors can receive the death penalty in Iran for ”promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy.”  

Putting aside the obvious human rights issues for a second, the article had an additional interesting tidbit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a blog. Yes, he thinks there are no homosexuals in Iran, the Holocaust never happened, and he blogs.  Because I am a big believer of the Marketplace of Ideas and not of the Iranian President, here is a link to his blog (which has a button to translate it to English and allows for comments) for those of you with the same curiousity as mine.

Before you comment on his blog, remember, you could be put to death. I, on the other hand, encourage any comments–positive or negative. I may just mutter about you at my desk under my breath if I disagree–the most common reaction of bloggers who are not the President of Iran.