For Google, a different twist in a trademark dispute

The search engine company orders a blogger to stop using its logo

In a new trademark dispute, Google finds the shoe is on the other foot -- and it seems to be pinching a bit.

Last week, American Airlines sued Google alleging the search company is infringing on the airline's trademarks by using them as keyword triggers for paid advertisements by other companies.

At the time, Google said it was confident that its trademark policy struck a proper balance between the interests of trademark owners and consumer choice, and that its position has been validated by decisions in previous trademark cases.

On Monday, a London-based blogger, Frank Fuchs, said Google ordered him to stop using its trademarked logo on his Web site. Fuchs said he is EU product manager for local search at Yahoo.

On his site, called a "Guide On How To Get Your Business Listed On Major Local Search Engines," Fuchs includes the names of local search engines, such as Yahoo Local, Ask City or Google Maps. He also puts the logo of each service next to his brief descriptions of them.

In his blog, Fuchs said he recently received an e-mail with the following subject line: "Unauthorized use of the GOOGLE logo on http://www.locallytype.com/pages/submit.htm." The sender was the Google Trademark Enforcement Team.

According to the e-mail, Fuchs was using the Google logo on his site without the company's express written permission.

"Please note that we allow use of our logo only if we have granted express written permission; and cited a link to Google's Guidelines for Third Party Use of Google Brand Features. Such unauthorized use constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition under both federal and state laws. It misleads consumers into believing that some association exists between you and Google; and it weakens the ability of the GOOGLE mark and name to identify a single source, namely, Google," said the enforcement team in its e-mail.

In its lawsuit against Google, American Airlines said by selling the airline's trademarks to other companies, consumers could be deceived into believing that they were being provided with information about American Airlines' flights and services.

Meanwhile, the Google team, in its e-mail to Fuchs, instructed him to contact them within seven calendar days to confirm that he would "cease and desist using Google's trademark, take commercially reasonable measures to limit the unauthorized use of the GOOGLE mark and/or logos on materials that have already been created and agree not to use the company's trademark without written permission in the future."

Fuchs said he complied and removed the logo from his site and added a note explaining the situation in place of the logo.

In his reply to the enforcement team Fuchs said, "Hi guys, Thanks for the note. I've removed the logo from the page, and just wasn't aware of the limitations. Sorry for that. But out of curiosity -- I don't make money off this page I'm just providing an overview of services -- actually refer people to you. And there are millions of pages out there using your logo to advertise their paid services -- so how come you picked me?"

The Google Enforcement Team didn't respond to Fuchs' question. Google didn't respond to a request for comment at deadline.

"So what is my take on this?" Fuchs asked in his blog. "After having slept over this ... it's just a little too bold to act like this, even if you are a big brand and you have to protect it, there should be a way to allow people like me to use the logo without 'express written permission.' But to be fair I've had a look at Yahoo's brand guidelines that consist of 41 chapters and we are not really too different and pretty picky about our brand and logo etc. because of good reason -- obviously."

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld
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