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The Almighty Buck

AXA sues Google over AdWords 366

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-will-only-get-worse dept.
Da Fokka writes "Insurance company AXA is suing Google in a french court because a search for 'AXA' results in links to their competitors. A similar claim was initially awarded but successfully appealed by Google. If this claim is successful, this could be quite a setback for Google's business model."
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AXA sues Google over AdWords

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  • by Allen Zadr (767458) * <Allen.Zadr@gmailCOUGAR.com minus cat> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:23AM (#8982963) Journal

    The last appeal (better described in an alternate story [weblogsinc.com] ) was overturned because all of the words involved were dictionary words, and that it was unrealistic to expect a trademark search for every AdWords sale.

    However, there is no doubt that AXA isn't found in most dictionaries, certainly not English or French - so it would seem they actually have a good chance of loosing this lawsuit.

    • by cygnusx (193092) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:27AM (#8982997) Homepage
      The other word they're suing for is "direct insurance" - according to this slightly more informative story from AP [theage.com.au] out on the wires now.

      What really bugs me is that AXA did not pay Google to be listed. AXA can easily deny, via robots.txt, google's ability to visit their site. AXA is getting tons of free publicity via exposure on google. What right does it have to deny clearly demarcated ads on the very same site?
      • by cygnusx (193092) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:30AM (#8983053) Homepage
        Oops, that was direct assurance, not insurance.
        • Read your link - did the search. Found it quite interesting - certainly more complete.

          Since the story you link mentions both terms though, "AXA" as well as "Direct Assurance" - I think it's still a decent chance they'll loose on the basis of AXA not being a word (except in the Ebonics sense as pointed out [slashdot.org] below).

        • by Mikkeles (698461) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:49AM (#8983278)
          Well, I typed "AXA" into Google and the first ten items were all related to AXA Insurance and the only ad was for a financial company's web page discussing AXA.
          Unless there has been a quick change by Google, my opinion is that AXA is FoS!
          Having the words "insurance" or "assurance" anywhere in one's search should trigger any insurance companies ads.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:28AM (#8983022)
      axa is found in Ebonics dictionaries. Using it in context - "lemme axa question, dawg."
    • The last appeal (better described in an alternate story [weblogsinc.com] ) was overturned because all of the words involved were dictionary words, and that it was unrealistic to expect a trademark search for every AdWords sale.

      I have no idea what French or EU law might add to this issue, but from the way trademark law generally works -- what is illegal about allowing people to type a trademark into a field and showing them ads based on that? I don't see how there's any infringement. Trademarks aren't magic

      • FYI: scrabble (Score:3, Informative)

        by Allen Zadr (767458) *
        The Scrabble dictionary [hasbro.com] is a sub-set of the Merriam-Webster dictionary [m-w.com] - which doesn't list axa as a word.
      • by Twylite (234238) <twylite@crypt[ ].za ['.co' in gap]> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @10:37AM (#8983852) Homepage

        What is happening here is that a competitor is "buying" an advert imprint on Google when the word "axa" is in the search criteria. Its pretty much the same thing as a billboard saying "Get your Coca Cola here" with an arrow down to a Pepsi fridge, or a table with your home-made lemonade.

        This is, in fact, exactly what trademark laws are meant to prevent: the abuse of your good name by competitors, detractors and freeloaders.

        Trademarks are, in fact, magic words (or phrases) that can't be used in many ways without permission. You can talk about Pepsi, refer to Pepsi, satirize Pepsi, but you can't use the name Pepsi to advertise your business or product, or claim to be Pepsi-compliant or Pepsi-approved, or basically abuse the (presumably) good reputation of Pepsi to bring gain to yourself or harm to the trademark holder.

        What is being described here is a despicable business practice, and does not deserve the hand of support its getting from Slashdot. Trademarks and branding are important tools for product differentiation in mature markets, which is why they are strongly protected in capatalist economies.

        That said, the guilty parties here are those that register trademarks (to which they have no right) as AdWords; not Google. This court action is comparable to holding a newspaper responsible because an advertiser illegally used a trademark, or holding a supermarket responsible for the illegal use of a trademark on its community advertising board.

        The correct solution is to apply existing laws to a "new" domain. Google should, on request from someone who can offer prima facae proof that they are the legal trademark holder, supply the full contact details of all parties who have either currently or previously registered AdWords for that trademark. The trademark holder can then go after the infringer(s) directly. It should not be possible to request or get an injunction to force Google to remove the AdWord, for the legal reasons given below.

        Unfortunately many countries are applying their only flavours of national and international law to the problem. This becomes particularly complicated in the case of trademarks, which typically are national in extent (although many countries have specific policies for "global" or "well known" international brands), and are also limited to a single domain.

        Thus a single country could have two registered trademarks "XYZ", one for a soft drink and another for a range of security doors. Another country could also have a trademark "XYZ" for a soft drink, that is in no way related to the "XYZ" of the first country. This happens frequently, and must be absolute hell for companies like Google.

        • by WNight (23683) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @11:05AM (#8984201) Homepage
          If someone comes into your store and asks for a Pepsi you can say "I don't sell Pepsi, would you like a Coke?" And in fact, what else could you do? Just say no without offering any alternatives? Would it be allowable to offer a beer, but not a Coke?

          Anyways, all Google's ad was doing was suggesting alternatives, not misrepresenting them as the trademark owner. Saying "Yeah, I know you want that company, but have you considered this other company?" Nothing illegal because there's no misrepresentation. (Not inherently, that would depend on if the company in the ad pretended to be AXA, not simply that they wanted to be listed as an alternative.)

          Had they silently redirected your request from Coke to Pepsi, bringing the wrong beverage, that would be a trademark violation.
        • by ad0gg (594412)
          Search engine is like an automated yellow page book but lot bigger. This would be like pepsi taking an advertisement out on the listing of coke in yellowpages. Its not a trademark violation. When someone asks you were a mcdonalds is, and you say there's burger king down the street, are you committing a trademark violation?
        • by Viceice (462967) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:07PM (#8985041)
          Trademarks and branding are important tools for product differentiation in mature markets, which is why they are strongly protected in capatalist economies.

          While what you have said about trademarks is true, what has all of that got to do with Google? Google is a search engine, it is a privately published directory that is publicly accessible. At the end of the day, it is just like a magazine.

          For example, pick up a PC magazine and you'll find that there are instances where there are articles published about product X and right on the next page is a full page advert for product X's competitor. Just like how you might find an Epson advert right after an article on HP printers.

          Yet i don't see companies suing over the very standard practice of placing ad's based on a publications editorial calender.

          Clearly it's the same thing no? You may argue that in this case users specifically searched for AXA and got to see their competitors also, but isn't the case the same when someone purposely flips the page to look at an article about HP printers and sees an Epson Ad beside it?

          Whats happening here is not somebody telling you to get Coca-Cola out of a Pepsi ice box, but rather more like Pepsi paying for a billboard right next to every Coca-Cola billboard. Ironic? Maybe, but definitely not wrong.
    • Although there ARE other things that "AXA" stands for as seen here [acronymfinder.com]
    • I'm not so sure. Didn't Gator win a case where they were serving up pop-up ads for competitors of certain web sites when they were visited?

  • Obvious question.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ImTwoSlick (723185) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:25AM (#8982988)
    Why can't they just sue the company who's purchasing the ad, instead of suing Google?
    • by defile (1059) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:35AM (#8983106) Homepage Journal

      Why can't they just sue the company who's purchasing the ad, instead of suing Google?

      This is a common problem, and I'm sure the source of most of Google's legal threats.

      Once Google is informed that an AdWord violates a trademark (or whatever), they become liable to prosecution. The way Google usually responds is by immediately pulling the ad.

      I can't imagine why Google wouldn't pull the ad, the money they make on them can't be worth the legal battle.

      Also, Google has deep pockets, and there are plenty of litigious assholes out there...

    • " Why can't they just sue the company who's purchasing the ad, instead of suing Google?"

      1) Google has more money.
      2) Google is an easy target.
      3) Suing Google garners more publicity.

      Your question makes the assumption that litigants/claiments are being wholly reasonable in their intent to have their grievances redressed and dont mereley want payola, regardless of the damadge it does to the information industry.

      .
  • Even in sue happy America this case would be dismissed. It's like suing a library because I went to look for say McDonalds and found that Burger King also sells hamburgers. McDonalds is mad wanting to bundle library with a default configuration whereby McDonald's information is installed in the library and cannot be removed once installed nor can it be collocated with other Hamburger joints. Now that McDonalds has the market captured it can now be the dominate player in the hamburger field (reminiscent o
    • by Brento (26177) * <`brento' `at' `brentozar.com'> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:29AM (#8983031) Homepage
      It's like suing a library because I went to look for say McDonalds and found that Burger King also sells hamburgers.

      A better analogy is that you opened the phone book's white pages to look up McDonald's, and saw a Burger King ad right next to the McDonald's listing.

      In the Yellow Pages, a commercial directory, you clearly expect to find businesses advertised by category. In the White Pages, customers are listed by name instead. AXA is trying to say that Google should limit itself to being a white pages index of the web, which is rubbish.
      • by Short Circuit (52384) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:35AM (#8983102) Homepage Journal
        That's exactly what the "yellow pages" are for. And AdWords is a lot like the yellow pages in that they show you businesses related to what you're searching for.

        AXA should be suing their competitor, not Google. What their competitor did is tantamount to hanging an advertisement for their business under AXA's streetside sign.
      • Better analogy yet (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ThinWhiteDuke (464916) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:56AM (#8983363)
        A better analogy is that you opened the phone book's white pages to look up McDonald's, and saw a Burger King ad right next to the McDonald's listing.

        I've RTFA but frankly, there's not much information in there. Still, I guess that the reason why Axa sued is that the ad links mentioned the brand name "AXA". So maybe the proper analogy would be that you opened the white pages to look for McDonald's and see an ad for "McDonald's something" with the address and phone# of a BK.

        Still not sure that this would justify a lawsuit but at least it's not that clear-cut.
  • by bigattichouse (527527) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:27AM (#8983003) Homepage
    I think the lawyers responsible for such litigation should be required by the judge to supply (for free to the public) a list of every trademarked word... and keep it updated in perpetuity, oh.. and have their fingernails pulled off for being such a pest.
  • by wpiman (739077) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:27AM (#8983006)
    "Freedom" court. Please use the language that our lofty senators appointed for us.
  • by ThogScully (589935) <neilsd@neilschelly.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:27AM (#8983010) Homepage
    If search engines become responsible for the accuracy of their searches, then that's going to become risky business, especially when everyone's always just a little lower in the rankings than they'd like to be.

    Worse for Google is that an insurance company is going to have lots of money and can easily afford to mount a very strong case against them. Hopefully, Google will have some luck, but it sounds like the similar case won't stand to help them much.
    -N
    • This comes down to rewards, really. AXA goes after Google, because they are worth billions, and can pay out large sums of money if they are sued and lose. AXA should be suing their competitor for faulty advertising (by linking their products and services to the AXA name). AXA is going after the wrong goose because they suspect they can railroad a court into thinking Google is responsible for the advertising it distributes. In any newspaper in the world, if you advertise, you are responsible for the content
    • Strictly, they're not suing Google over the search. They're suing Google over the ad.

      The difference is crucial. Google makes money directly from the sale of Axa's trademarked keyword. Google makes no money from the search itself. They've been sued over search results before, and won every single time, precisely because the search results are fair.

      If Google had been asked to cease associating Axa's trademark with Axa's competitor, and refused, that may well constitute trademark violation. Frankly, I'm
  • Responsibility? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slycer9 (264565) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:28AM (#8983014) Journal
    I'm trying to figure out how a court can actually hold Google RESPONSIBLE for advertisement for a business entity.

    Google's primary purpose is INFORMATION, not the aforementioned advertisement.

    If I'm looking for something to purchase, I'm generally more concerned with price & availability than who I buy FROM. It's in this area that Google shines, offering a plethora of various places to buy/rent from.

    I would think this is an excellent opportunity for Google to make the distinction between their ACTUAL business plan and their PERCIEVED business plan.

    Think about it, just because you've coined some obscure acronym for yourself or your business, does that mean it's Google's responsibility to insure that people find you during their search? Wow, nice way to shrink that ad budget.
    • Re:Responsibility? (Score:5, Informative)

      by YouTalkinToMe (559217) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:38AM (#8983141)

      I think you've got this wrong. They are suing because Google is selling their name as an Adword, not that their competitor comes up in the search portion of the page. It seems like there could be a good case that the competitor (and Google) is making money by trading on their good name. I'm not saying that I agree, but I don't think it is an open-and-shut case, especially when the name isn't a common english or french word.

    • Re:Responsibility? (Score:2, Informative)

      by samurairas (666175)
      Google's primary purpose is information? I don't think so.

      Google is a business, and that means that it's primary purpose is to make money so that the business can continue to exist.The fact that Google provides very accurate search results is what makes it so attractive to advertisers.

      Their "actual" business plan is to make a ton of money. Period.

    • Re:Responsibility? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:46AM (#8983244) Homepage
      Google's primary purpose is INFORMATION, not the aforementioned advertisement.

      Absolutely not. Google is a profit-seeking company, and as a commercial entity Google's primary purpose is the advert, not the information. The information is the lure to get you to see the advert.

      Cheers,
      Ian

      • iirc google does quite a bit of business licensing their search engine for use in private intranets, so the search capabilities are ALSO a revenue stream
      • Re:Responsibility? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arkanes (521690)
        Actually, this isn't (yet) true. As a private company, Google has no obligation whatsoever to be a souless capital seeking machine, and is perfectly free to decide that it's primarly an information service, with the advertising and cash flow being a useful side effect. And, judging from both Googles origins and it's actions I suspect thats more or less how the company views itself.
    • Re:Responsibility? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by goldspider (445116)
      "If I'm looking for something to purchase, I'm generally more concerned with price & availability than who I buy FROM. It's in this area that Google shines, offering a plethora of various places to buy/rent from."

      But this isn't about people searching for "insurance", with links to a variety of insurance companies' websites being returned.

      This is about people searching for "AXA", a specific insurance company, with links to a variety of insurance companies' websites being returned.

      "just because you

      • Yes, but if you search for AXA, and *other* companies have that term in their meta tags (or elsewhere on the page), then google could well have a legitimate reason to serve those up. Obviously there are problems with this idea, but if another company uses their competitor's name as a key term, then that is hardly google's responsibility, no is it?

        Look at it this way: say I am running an anti-Limbaugh effort, because I don't like the guy. Now let's suppose that I use the terms rush and limbaugh (check my
        • Re:Responsibility? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @10:21AM (#8983649) Homepage
          But this isn't about the general search results; this is about what comes up in the "Sponsored Links". Google controls what shows up there, or more accurately, controls the keywords (Adwords) that triggers the results there.

          Being that these results are generated by Google, it's Google's responsibility to make sure that none of their sponsors are abusing other companies' trademarks.

          • Utter BS. Any company publishing a phone book will be perfectly happy to sell you an ad under any name you want. If you don't own the rights to that name and are infringing a trademark, it's your problem, and you'll be sued to pull the ad, not whoever publishes the phone book. The due dilligence required to ensure that no advertiser is breaking trademark is completely unreasonable, and on top of that it places the burden of defending the trademark on an uninterested party - namely Google. Assume for the mom
  • This reminds me... (Score:4, Informative)

    by TexasDex (709519) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:28AM (#8983016) Homepage
    of people trying to sue Google for trashing their pagerank after they subscribed to a link farm.

    Nothing good can come of this sort of lawsuit. Google and other search engines should be free to have their results the way the Internet says.

    The Scientology nuts are complaining that a search for "scientology" also results in anti-scientology sites. Should they be awarded damages too?

    I don't think so.

    • by StrongAxe (713301)
      The Scientology nuts are complaining that a search for "scientology" also results in anti-scientology sites. Should they be awarded damages too?

      I don't think so.


      True. However, if somebody paid Google to put an anti-Scientology site higher up on the list, this is no longer a matter of neutral search results, but a wilful use of a trademarked name. This isn't about searching, but about commercial profit out of someone else's trademark.
  • Basis of the Suit (Score:4, Informative)

    by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:29AM (#8983034) Homepage
    They said that Google is diluting the copyright because customers might mistaken the adverstised services as being associated with AXA. (Yes, it's in an ad box and labeled as such, but that makes sense and has no place in the law.) People have sued pop-ups on the same grounds; an ad that popped up upon a visit to a website might seem connected to that website even though it is not. Therefore, this claim is not stupid outright but in this case it seems a little weak.
    • If the ads are confusingly similar to the trademark then the party to blame should be the people who drafted the ad, but not Google. On the other hand, if the ads do not cause confusion then AdWords for competing products should be regarded as a legitimate form of advertising, like a company placing a big ad in a phonebook page that also contains his competitor's phone number.
      • In the US, you're allowed to use trademarks when you're referring to a specific company or product, so it's perfectly legal to use a competitors brand in your ads if you're directly comparing yourself to them. I can't speak to what ads they're talking about (on plain old Google.com, the ads I come up with are for meta-services offering market information and such - I don't know exactly what AXA does but if they're an insurance company I don't think any of these guys compete), but as long as the ad itself do
        • Here's the UK Google Page, snapshotted for your pleasure:

          http://homepage.ntlworld.com/deeppurple/GoogleAX A. png

          Showing non-AXA sites using the AXA trademark illegally. I don't know if Google are registered in the UK though which might explain why Google France is getting sued.

          Google aren't the ones to sue. They are the ones to subpoena to get the advertisers' information, and then sue the advertisers for misuse of a trademark.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/24/202821 6&mode=thread

    "If this claim is successful, this could be quite a setback for Microsoft's business model."

    Nice consistent unbiased reporting there, guys. :)
  • Next up... (Score:5, Funny)

    by tooloftheoligarchy (557158) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:29AM (#8983041)

    "Search engine company Google is suing themselves"

    "If you Google on 'A9', you get a listing for one of our competitors," said a company spokesperson. "It's an outrage!"

  • by i88i (720935) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:29AM (#8983046)
    when i go through the big phat yellow pages directory, looking for the "Blud E. Good Plumbing" phone number, i am subjected to other adverts of rival plumbing services. The Yellow pages are profiting from this, so why shouldn't google?
    • This is the first time that I've seen a good analogy on Slashdot. I think Google should hire you for the legal team.

      It's better than the Wookie Defense.
    • Aren't people on Slashdot supposed to be good at analogies? The yellow pages are indexed by general terms like "plumbing." Look up "Geico" in the yellow pages and you won't find anything, but look up "car insurance" and you might.

      To put it another way, your analogy would be valid if AXA was suing for being listed next to a competitor when someone searches for life insurance. Alternately, you'd also be right if i could take out an ad in the white pages, and list my service under a competitor's registered
  • Bah, this is nuts. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mopslik (688435) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:31AM (#8983067)

    A quick search for 'Linux' [google.ca] brings up the following #1 sponsored link:

    Linux News
    Why is Windows cheaper than Linux?
    Get all the facts Now!
    www.microsoft.ca/getthefacts

    So can Linus sue now? Seriously, I hope the courts don't rule against Google. It's not like the nasty ads that were being placed over other ads on company websites, it's just a sponsored link.

    • Well, he would have to sue in a french court to obtain the same effect, but isnt it what microsoft did to lindows when the trial didnt turn out as they expected in the usa? To sue them in european courts?
    • Its only google.ca. And the site is microsoft.ca, so its a Canadian only thing. Dunno if that makes any difference.
  • Alternately, why not just make it obvious by adding "non-competitive" to the adwords section.. so all these bozo's will click it, and have results filtered so that no other adwords competition shows for the highest setting.. while those who click "competitive" will show up as the action is designed to be... course everyone will search in "competative mode only".. ALSO, why not just make google a social club (free membership, click wrap), then you can just tell them its private and they should go away.
  • Sue Amazon! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:32AM (#8983077)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't it perfectly legal to say that you don't want to do business with someone because of moral/other objections?

    What happens if google just removed any and all references to AXA on the web?

    They could damage any global corp, and destroy any web business that wasn't already a name (amazon).

    This is their scary power, scary power indeed.
  • Country oriented (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcbridematt (544099) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:35AM (#8983107) Homepage Journal
    In the forced localized version of Google here in Australia, all I see is a) AXA official web sites b) An ad for a local mortgage firm. No compeditors. Obviously the validility of this lawsuit varies from country to country.

    In the interests of full disclosure: I am an AXA Australia shareholder.
  • by zalas (682627) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:36AM (#8983113) Homepage
    ...and on the sponsored ads, every one of them had 'AXA' in the title, but didn't seem to be related to the company itself. Are sponsored links different from regular links in that the companies give Google the title that'll show up? It seems like the only way to actually solve this may be to force Google to check for trademarks in titles, but that is a LOT of work, and probably is only feasible if a company assertively places its name in "the list."
    • Yeah it'd be a pain to search for the trademark information... if only they had some form of search technology.......

      Heh. Not meant as a flame just as a silly joke - my brain is starting to melt from my study!
  • Often when i search for one thing i get adds for something else. Not that i care that much, but its just a bit silly :)
  • by Noryungi (70322) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:42AM (#8983188) Homepage Journal
    Let's take a step back for just a second. Std Disclaimer: IANAL, but I play one on /.

    If "AXA" wins, this means that using its name is forbidden, unless the company gives its approval beforehand. This imposes an undue restriction on freedom of speech, since Google is certainly not the only forum in which AXA is discussed and/or searched. Will this company sue, let's say, every newspapers or forums that discuss insurance companies and/or policies? Unlikely.

    A few years ago, AXA may have argue its case by saying that it was 'undue competition', since France had laws prohibiting comparative commercials (Product A is better than product B because of...). But this is not the case anymore and comparative commercials are now legal in France.

    Google may also argue that AdWords do not 'target' AXA, since -- AFAIK -- they are generated automatically. AXA is an insurance company (this is public knowledge). Therefore, a Google search on, say 'life insurance' would return pretty much the same AdWords results.

    Therefore, I think AXA does not have a case. I also believe they know it, but that some over-zealous jerk in its Legal Dept decided to press the case anyway, just to make a point. They are just throwing good money out the window.

    This may seem surprising, but French courts have proven in the past to be remarkably reasonable when it came to the Internet (Yahoo! 'nazi' case aside) and the previous decision is a case in point, since AXA lost it.

    I fully expect Google to fight this all the way to the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), if need be. And I expect them to win.

    Just my 0.02 Euros...
    • No, I think the problem is not that a search for 'insurance' yields competition, but that a search for "AXA" yields competition. No, AXA can't sue anyone for using their name, but they may be able to sue google for harboring malicious attempts to subvert the copyright.

      Somebody else brought up a neat example: Amazon's "people who bought this book also bought..." But that doesn't forcibly redirect attention to the other products. No, I think probably the most comparable example would be like if you burger ki
    • If "AXA" wins, this means that using its name is forbidden, unless the company gives its approval beforehand. This imposes an undue restriction on freedom of speech, since Google is certainly not the only forum in which AXA is discussed and/or searched. Will this company sue, let's say, every newspapers or forums that discuss insurance companies and/or policies? Unlikely.

      It's slightly more complicated. The problem with Google's ads (as explained by Playboy's lawyer in this article [theage.com.au]) is that they confuse t
  • Think about it: words in the dictionary vs. trademark names, which one wins?

    All this means that the competitors of Axa, who are now buying the keyword "Axa", would have to buy some other keyword likely to be used when searching for insurance / financial advisor services.
  • by mattbee (17533) <matthew@bytemark.co.uk> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:47AM (#8983255) Homepage
    I think this was pretty standard practice at one point, to put your competitors names as triggers for your Adword advert. A competitor tried to do that to us, which we thought was a bit scummy but we didn't have the resources to do anything about it. Someone pointed us at Google's compaints procedure: we wrote to them, and after a long delay the offending advert was taken down. I found another article [eweek.com] which implies that they will be reversing this policy and allowing you to bid on anybody's name and trademark, and take down adverts only where a particular jurisdiction makes it awkward for them (i.e. outside of US and Canada). This sucks of course but TBH I'm not sure said competitor would have got many hits from our name at the time. Now I suspect they might but this time we'd be able to do something about it :-)
    • Why, exactly, is this "a bit scummy"? It's called competition, my friend, and contrary to what you might believe, it's actually good for the consumer. I do the same thing on AdWords with what I sell, because I believe my product is superior to the competitor's product. If they have a problem with this, then they can either (1) refute the claim, (2) improve their product, or (3) shut the hell up.

      There are few things worse than a company that whines because they expect their customers to be handed to them
      • It is scummy. Why should you be able to advertise under someone else's name?
        When people search for your competitors products, they don't want to see your ads.
        Perhaps you should 1) work on improving your own image, so people would actually search for you, or 2) shut the hell up.

        Few things are worse than a company that acts immorally then excuses it as "that's business"
      • Are your adwords basically "We're better than XYZ because ..." (legal), or "XYZ XYZ XYZ" (illegal).

        And the former is only legal in countries where comparitive advertising is legal too.

        For example, if I ran a brewery "A", and my adword used brewery B's name in a non-comparative sense, that would be illegal, it would be misuse of a trademark (assuming B had trademarked their name, of course!), misleading to the consumer and a lot lot more. In the UK you'd probably end up being kicked about by Trading Standa
      • Well depending on what name you're selling under, it is the basis of a "passing off" suit. Our name is our trade mark [intellectu...rty.gov.uk]. If competitors are using our trade mark to advertise their competing product, this is called passing off [intellectu...rty.gov.uk] and is a type of unfair competition (according to British law at least). It is unfair because they are benefitting from the reputation associated with our name to sell their product, and may create confusion in the mind of the consumer. It also unfairly rides on the back of the consi
  • I get the feeling that this may be Google's fault for not recognizing AXA as a brand name. They can certainly reject adword ads if they think the purchaser is violating a trademark.

    Try doing a search for "American Express" and see what ads come up on Google.
  • If you go to www.google.fr [google.fr] and search for AXA, no ads show up (anymore). So it looks like Google pulled the AdWord already. Do they feel guilty then?
  • by TheRealStyro (233246) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @10:00AM (#8983415) Homepage
    I don't see any problem. The Google search engine is doing exactly as it should - it is finding matching/close references within its website database. It just makes sense that the engine will find competitors/similar sites. A lawsuit over a service that is performing as it should should be dismissed immediately (with a warning to the industry not to try this stunt again).
  • Here in part of the United States, there is a store called Meijer. Its kind of a huge Wal-Mart with a food section for those that arent familiar. At any rate, when you check out, your cash register reciept is always accompanied by a coupon "strip" with coupons for a good number of the competitors of the items you JUST bought. For instance, if I go to Meijer and buy Armor hot dogs, im likely to get a coupon when checking out for Oscar Mayer hot dogs. Buy Heinz mustard and youre likely to get a coupon for
  • Now when you search for AXA, one of the first results is:
    "AXA sues Google over AdWords - Slashdot - 35 minutes ago"
  • by EXTomar (78739) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @10:14AM (#8983568)
    Open up the yellow page phone book you have next to your phone. Look up any topic like "lawyers" and you'll find not one lawyer but a whole gaggle. Now AXA would have you believe this is wrong. When you open up the phone book looking around for something and you stumble across AXA it should be the only available financial institution? Is this what AXA really believes?

    Why are companies afraid of competition? Because it makes them work a little bit harder? Shesh. Instead of suing Google who about count this as a blessing (aka free advertising) and get your marketing people to figure out away to capture the attention of people who when given a choice would want to choose AXA?
  • If you are insured with them, don't renew. Tell them why.

    I'm fed up with companies trying to assert things that vaguely might belong to them. IMO you don't have rights to people not using your name. I've seen plenty of comparison adverts in the UK for cars, and that's perfectly legal.

    What's their big problem anyway? I search for Axa because I want Axa and get some results for someone else? Well, maybe the "someone else" does it better and I might discover that? That, is what we in the free world call co

  • For litigious bastards [axa.com], displacing the previous litigious bastards [scogroup.com] who will henceforth be known simply as bastards [scogroup.com].
  • What about the Greek sorority that has this as their letters? Maybe they should step up to the plate as well.
  • by brianjcain (622084) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @10:25AM (#8983704) Journal
    What incentive does Google have to produce "accurate" results? Merely financial. The fact that google produces what's considered to be dependable search results given some search terms seems totally irrelevant. Google is beholden only to its investors (and it's still privately held, so the list probably isn't enormous). Google's ranking algorithm(s) are susceptible to abuse, and perhaps a competitor of AXA has done just so. But I wouldn't care if Google intentionally produced AXA's competitors as results for searches on "AXA". What right has anyone to demand that Google produce more accurate results (presumes that searching for "AXA" means that AXA's website is the desired result)?
  • When you search on google using our product's name (LLBLGen), you get a lot of pages and at the right side 2 or 3 adds. Most of them are competitors. As google has a set of rules the words used in the AddWords system have to comply with, we got a little annoyed: competitors seem to use our brand as a search keyword for their adds.

    One day, a Dutch .NET consultancy firm was also among the adds. This was weird, as they didn't sell a competing product. I contacted them and asked why they used our brand in the
  • PATHETIC!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jlk_71 (308809)
    It is simply amazing how 'nitpicky' people can really get. Sueing Google over a search result. They should be happy that they are at least first on the list. If you search on msn.com, they are 13th, with their competitors listed first. Of course Yahoo and Lycos list them like google does, first on the list, while Excite has them at #6.
    Are the folks at Axa planning on filing suit against these other search engines as well? I think google gave them an excellent spot at the top of their search food chain
  • by jimsum (587942) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @11:06AM (#8984212)
    Ironically, Google may be in trouble because their search engine is too good. In another search engine, if you search for "AXA" you expect to get a bunch of useless sites. When you search in Google, you expect to get useful information. Therefore if someone does a search for AXA in Google, they fully expect that their results are related to AXA. If Google searches were bad, then there would be no confusion because users would expect to get irrelevant results, and there wouldn't be much of a case.

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