1-800-Contacts and Google AdWords/David Beats Me To This Post As I Was Typing It

One of my favorite blogs is the Technology & Marketing Law Blog.  Why?  Because I like technology and marketing, and love learning about the legal implications of the things I do.  And yes, I have a disease.

1-800-Contacts (a site that I never use because my vision is so horrific, I actually can’t use contact lenses.  It’s an astigmatism thing) has decided to sue their competitor LensWorld.com for buying “1800Contacts” as a keyword in online advertising.  After looking at the official complaint, the networks include Google AdWords specifically, but I can only assume that this practice might also be taking place on Yahoo and MSN.

First of all, I’m actually slightly surprised that Google’s systems allow for this kind of keyword targeting.  In my experience (especially when I’ve placed AdWords ads before), the Google system usually blocks the purchase of trademarked names.  For instance, one time I tried to use the phrase “Wall Street Journal” in my ad, and Google said “nope, can’t do that!”  This usually serves as a means to protect Google, the ad buyer, and the owner of the trademark.  So, I wonder what about “1800Contacts” didn’t constitute a trademark.  There must be something.

But besides the oversight from Google, there’s some hypocrisy here with 1-800-Contacts’ claim.  It seems, according to Eric Goldman (the man behind the Technology & Marketing Blog), that 1-800-Contacts has “routinely bought third party trademarks as keywords.”  So, as Eric says, “it looks like 1-800 Contacts has a somewhat duplicitous attitude towards keyword advertising — good when they do it, bad when their competitors do it.”

So, the answer is to sue in the company’s “best interests” and in the name of their “brand.”

Which leads me back to a conclusion that you and I already knew: lawyers have no friggin’ clue about social media or online brands.

Oh, and as I finish this article, what pops up in my RSS reader?  Why, my friend David’s post about the same thing. GMTA?

~ by Brad Levinson on January 10, 2008.

One Response to “1-800-Contacts and Google AdWords/David Beats Me To This Post As I Was Typing It”

  1. Eric Goldman http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/trademark/ also talks about this – and also comments on other 1800 contacts
    initiatives to block competition. On that principle alone, I think it is time to find an alternative company by contacts from to enhance competition. (As Eric Goldman suggests.)
    It seems a stretch to suggest (as the complaint does) that a user searching on a trademark term would be easily confused by clicking on a competitor.

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