Court rejects Google's motion to dismiss airlines' lawsuit

Airline claims Google infringes on its trademark with keyword ads

A U.S. federal court judge last week denied a motion by Google to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by American Airlines.

American filed the lawsuit in August in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, saying it wants to stop competitors from using its trademarks to trigger their own advertising on Google.

"We are pleased by the judge's order denying Google's motion to dismiss our claims. American would not have brought its lawsuit against Google if we did not believe in the merits of our claims, and the court's order ... ensures that we will have an opportunity to develop and pursue those claims," said American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner in a statement.

Other companies pay Google to get links to their Web sites placed at the top of the list of sponsored links -- on the right hand side of the search results page -- when a user's search terms match certain keywords, such as American Airlines. The companies buy those keywords from Google. American alleges that Google doesn't have the right to sell its name to any other company and is asking the court to stop Google from selling its trademarks to other companies.

Google said it was disappointed with the court's decision.

"While we were disappointed that the court denied our motion to dismiss we believe that the American Airlines trademark suit lacks merit," a Google spokesman said in a statement. "Google's trademark policy strikes a proper balance between trademark owners' interests and consumer choice and has been validated by prior court decisions."

In a one-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge John McBride gave no reason for denying Google's motion. Because of that, it's impossible to figure out what his decision says about the long-term disposition of the case, according to a blog post by Eric Goldman, assistant professor and director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

"If, in fact, Google ultimately wins this case, then the court's decision not to knock out the case early will result in a lot of wasted time and money for everyone," Goldman said.

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld
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