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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.
No question, Google is the search engine beast of the Internet. And when you are the beast, you are subject to attacks.
Earlier this year, for example, John Beck Amazing Profits, LLC (Beck) took aim at Google by filing suit in federal court in Texas, arguing that Google's AdWords program has caused trademark infringement and has created liability under other legal theories.
While Beck's complaint apparently has not yet been served, Google is not sitting still and has filed its own lawsuit back against Beck in Google's backyard, federal court in San Francisco. Google seeks a declaration from the court that its business model does not run afoul of trademark and other laws.
In its complaint, Google in essence concedes its status as the beast of the Internet, by touting its "mission of organizing the world's information and making it accessible and useful."
Google notes that in addition to its free "organic" search results, Google operates its advertising AdWords program. This latter program is revenue-producing and through advertisements helps "Internet users quickly and easily access relevant information." Most of us are familiar with organic, free search results on the left side of of Google search results pages with sponsored links that are set forth on the right side.
Lawsuits, like the one filed by Beck, have asserted that Google should be prohibited from retrieving information based on trademarked terms.
Google counters in its declaratory relief complaint against Beck that these lawsuits "threaten to prevent Internet users from finding the most relevant information using Google" and that "the anti-competitive philosophy motivating such suits is also contrary to trademark law."
Indeed, Google argues that trademark law "exists to protect consumers against deception - not to grant trademark owners an inviolable monopoly on words."
While Google will hope to get a receptive audience in federal court in San Francisco, the filing of its action there very well might cause Beck to effectuate service of process in the federal Texas action. And, then, of course, each side will seek to prosecute its case fully in the court of its choosing, while trying to derail the case filed by the other side.
Plainly, if this matter does not resolve, Google will fight it hard. Google could not stand for a court order that prevents it from providing search results that include trademarked words, especially if it seeks to fulfill its mission of organizing all of the world's information.
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.
This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.