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Google to battle Utah's Trademark Protection Act

April 16, 2007

Big doings on June 30.

That's the day the Trademark Protection Act goes into effect.

The Utah measure limits the types of keywords that Internet advertisers can use to generate competitive ads.  

Google is opposing a provision in the act that lets companies register an electronic trademark that would prohibit competitors from using those marks to initiate links on search engines and other Web sites where keyword-generated advertising is allowed.

"Federal courts have consistently upheld the right to use trademarked terms in comparative ads," a Google spoikesperson tells Computerworld.  "And competition – which generally helps lower prices and benefits consumers – is fueled in part by companies being able to use advertising to draw contrasts with their competitors."

The spokesman added that Google thinks the new law is unconstitutional.

"We'll certainly be working with other Internet companies to help educate officials in Utah about the numerous consequences of this piece of legislation," Computerworld quotes the spokesperson as saying.

Google's belief is shared by the attorney for the Utah State Legislature.

As Computerworld's Linda Rosencrane writes:

"The most prominent application for this type of mark is the use of user-entered search terms in an Internet search engine to trigger advertisements," according to a legislative review note by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

"These triggered advertisements are often advertisements for a competitor of an entity whose name is entered in the search engine by a potential customer. Because of the potential impact on interstate commerce from the state's regulation of electronic registration mark use on Internet search engines, this legislation has a high probability of being held to be unconstitutional," the review note said.

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