Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Does Geico Own 'Geico' Or Does Google? [Geico sues: stop other insurance ads when googling 'Geico']
Forbes ^ | Dec 13, 2004 | Dan Ackman

Posted on 12/13/2004 1:58:58 PM PST by Mike Fieschko

NEW YORK - Geico doesn't mind you Googling Geico, but when you do, it wants Google to tell you about Geico, not Allstate or AIG.

This is the crux of a lawsuit going to trial today in Virginia pitting the car insurer, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway (nyse: BRKa - news - people ), against the search engine that says it wants to organize the world's information, information on car insurance included.

Geico sued Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people) in May claiming trademark infringement. The insurer says Google links ads from Geico's rivals to searches for "Geico" itself. This sending of Geico hunters to destinations apart from Geico hurts Geico, Geico says. But Google says what it does is perfectly legal, a form of "fair use" that does not violate Geico's intellectual property. It says that Geico may own Geico, but the word "Geico" is up for grabs.

This form of fair use is big business for Google. It makes the bulk of its revenue, which was $806 million in the third quarter, from selling ads that are targeted to search results. Thus, a search for "Geico" leads to Geico on the left side of the screen, but on the right side, there are "sponsored links" to AIGauto.com, onlinemarts.com and cheapercarinsurance.com. Google went public in August, raising $1.67 billion and its stock has soared since then.

The suit raises novel legal claims. But in heading for trial, Geico has already won a partial victory as Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this August refused to throw it out on legal grounds. The suit was originally against Overture as well. But Overture settled earlier this month, leaving the more alliterative battle, Geico v. Google, the only case on trial.

Intellectual property law experts are skeptical about Geico's chances. "The case law in this area is very primitive and unformed," says Susan Crawford, who teaches cyberspace law at Cardozo Law School. But Google, she adds, has "very strong arguments" as there is simply no confusion created that would undermine Geico's mark.

Bill Patry, a partner in Thelen Ried & Priest and an author of a leading treatise on copyright law, agrees, pointing out that a trademark owner does not own the name, but the name in association with a product. Geico's position, he says, "sounds like a very monopolistic, expansive use of trademark." He adds, "It sounds like a very strange suit to me"

Google does the same thing to everybody--almost. A search for "Nike" brings up sites that sell Nike (nyse: NKE - news - people) products, but none that sell Reeboks (presumably because Nike sellers were the ones to buy the links. A search for "Microsoft" leads to many Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people) sites, but also to companies offering to "fix Microsoft errors," which the colossus of Redmond may or may not appreciate. A search for "Dell" will get you to Dell.com, both on the left and on the right, as Dell (nasdaq: DELL - news - people ) has, it seems, purchased sponsored links to itself. That search leads not to Gateway. A search for Forbes gets you Forbes, and also a diamond merchant that Forbes said nice things about.

On the other hand, a Google search for Google leads the searcher to Google sites, with no sponsored links at all. If you use Google to search for Google rival Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO - news - people ), all you get is Yahoo!. This leads to the question, if sponsored links are such a great idea, why doesn't Google or Yahoo! buy any for themselves?




TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: geico; google; lawsuit

1 posted on 12/13/2004 1:58:58 PM PST by Mike Fieschko
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko
Found through ISN'T WARREN BUFFETT A WONDERFUL PERSON? on Donald Luskin's site Chronicle of the Conspiracy [to keep you poor and stupid].
2 posted on 12/13/2004 2:02:00 PM PST by Mike Fieschko (We need two parties for a debate about abolishing welfare to buy more cruise missiles. [Frank J.])
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko
Sometimes I look in a magazine for information on Charles Schwab and see ads for ETrade. The horror, the horror!
3 posted on 12/13/2004 2:02:43 PM PST by KarlInOhio (In a just world, Arafat would have died at the end of a rope.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

This should be interesting. At this point, I think Geico should win, easily.


4 posted on 12/13/2004 2:02:55 PM PST by newgeezer (Just my opinion, of course. Your mileage may vary. You have the right to be wrong.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko
Google's right. Geico's wrong.

Would Geico rather not be able to be googled at all?

5 posted on 12/13/2004 2:02:58 PM PST by tallhappy (Juntos Podemos!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

Stupid. A search for "Geico" brings up Geico Insurance's web site as the first hit. This is just a stupid suit, brought by a company that want's to stop Google from selling ads linked to keywords. It won't work, especially since Geico's web site is the first hit on the list.


6 posted on 12/13/2004 2:03:12 PM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: tallhappy

If somehow Geico could win this suit, if I were google, I'd then leave "geico" out of the database, and have searches come up empty.


7 posted on 12/13/2004 2:07:39 PM PST by SoDak (home of Senator John Thune)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: newgeezer

It is interesting. My money would be on google to win.


8 posted on 12/13/2004 2:07:50 PM PST by San Jacinto
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: San Jacinto

This sounds like a solid antitrust case to me.


9 posted on 12/13/2004 2:09:55 PM PST by mgist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: SoDak
If somehow Geico could win this suit, if I were google, I'd then leave "geico" out of the database, and have searches come up empty.

Yep. Geico's opening up a can of whoop*ss here.

Also, customer perception is everything. Currently, Geico is seen as a customer-friendly corporation... if they're suddenly seen as greedy, their business will drop off dramatically.

10 posted on 12/13/2004 2:10:41 PM PST by Terabitten (Live as a bastion of freedom and democracy in the midst of the heart of darkness.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

That is a copyright issue dealing with meta tags, keywords and website descriptions using Gieco's name. It has nothing to do with Google. Google can not be the meta tag police.


11 posted on 12/13/2004 2:10:50 PM PST by BJungNan (Stop Spam - Do NOT buy from junk email.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

If I was CEO of Google, I would block Geico.


12 posted on 12/13/2004 2:13:51 PM PST by Beckwith (John, you said I was going to be the First Lady, as of now, you're on the couch . . .)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

What happens if you Google gecko?


13 posted on 12/13/2004 2:17:08 PM PST by LRS
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tragically Single

If google doesn't win, it basically destroys googles business model.


14 posted on 12/13/2004 2:19:30 PM PST by SoDak (home of Senator John Thune)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: BJungNan
That is a copyright issue dealing with meta tags, keywords and website descriptions using Gieco's name. It has nothing to do with Google. Google can not be the meta tag police.

I don't understand what meta tags, etc., have to do with this. Do the meta tags, etc., determine when someone's ad runs?

I don't think a business pays Google to get into their searches, so wouldn't this be similar to the Yellow Pages?

No one pays for a one line, standard font line listing in the Yellow Pages. A business just tells the phone company what line of work they do. I suppose a business could tell the phone company not to list them in the Yellow Pages. (Going on experience from years ago here.)

Businesses do pay for bold or red font, or display ads. So, Geico gets a free listing in the insurance section of the Yellow Pages, and can't stop the phone company from printing Allstate's display ads.
15 posted on 12/13/2004 2:21:06 PM PST by Mike Fieschko (We need two parties for a debate about abolishing welfare to buy more cruise missiles. [Frank J.])
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: LRS
You get: THIS

Next question ???

16 posted on 12/13/2004 2:21:30 PM PST by Salgak (don't mind me: the orbital mind control lasers are making me write this. . .)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: BJungNan
Actually, this is based on ads Google sells that allow competitor ads to show up if you google Geico. It's not about meta tags.
17 posted on 12/13/2004 2:22:35 PM PST by sharktrager (The masses will trade liberty for a more quiet life.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Salgak

Well, you might have to go ahead a couple of pages:

http://www.geico.com/blog/


18 posted on 12/13/2004 2:24:22 PM PST by LRS
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: newgeezer
...I think Geico should win, easily.

Any logical basis for what you "think," or is it really just what you "feel?"

19 posted on 12/13/2004 2:26:49 PM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help fund terrorism.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: newgeezer

I don't see why you think Geico will win easily. I watch television by way of Dishnetwork and I see DirecTv ads all the time. If Dish had their way I'm sure I would never see a DirecTv ad.


20 posted on 12/13/2004 2:39:02 PM PST by UseYourHead (Beware of the Rinos - McCain, Hagel, Lugar, and Specter)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

GEICO can get on the right side with just a few $$$.


21 posted on 12/13/2004 2:40:37 PM PST by Lokibob (All typos and spelling errors are mine and copyrighted!!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

I just googled Geico and I don't see any ads for anyone else.


22 posted on 12/13/2004 2:41:44 PM PST by UseYourHead (Beware of the Rinos - McCain, Hagel, Lugar, and Specter)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: San Jacinto
My money would be on google to win.

My money would be on the lawyers.

23 posted on 12/13/2004 2:44:49 PM PST by Glenn (The two keys to character: 1) Learn how to keep a secret. 2) ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: UseYourHead
I just googled Geico and I don't see any ads for anyone else.

'As your attorney, my advice is ...'
24 posted on 12/13/2004 2:46:10 PM PST by Mike Fieschko (We need two parties for a debate about abolishing welfare to buy more cruise missiles. [Frank J.])
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko
I always thought that when you called geico, that they provided rate quotes from other insurance companies to prove they are the lowest priced?
25 posted on 12/13/2004 2:50:32 PM PST by Bostton1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mike Fieschko

I manage online bidding for a company...we advertise on many search engines.

We advertise on Google using keywords. Bidding is competitive, but when I google "Geico", their site comes up first and they are not bidding for that position on the main page.

Google is doing them a favor...unlike Yahoo, Altavista, and a host of other search engines, the mainpage sites listed are self edited by Google and you can not "pay" for that position.

You can "pay" to position yourself in the top of the page ads, or side of the page ads.

Geico should thank Google, not sue them. Google could demote them to 3rd or 4th page in their "free" listings if they wanted to.


26 posted on 12/13/2004 2:51:52 PM PST by dawn53
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: dawn53

"Geico should thank Google, not sue them. Google could demote them to 3rd or 4th page in their "free" listings if they wanted to"

This made me think of how much influence Google has on other's research...


27 posted on 12/13/2004 3:00:45 PM PST by jer33 3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: jer33 3

Ya gonna hear from my lawyer!

28 posted on 12/13/2004 3:05:28 PM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: UseYourHead

The same with Dish ads that appear on cable TV. The cable companies do what they can to block them but hey it's the nature of advertising.


29 posted on 12/13/2004 3:15:42 PM PST by George from New England
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Lokibob

Yeah! Geico could buy the ad space.


30 posted on 12/13/2004 3:16:18 PM PST by George from New England
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Bostton1

wrong company - I think this claim is made by Progressive


31 posted on 12/13/2004 3:17:01 PM PST by George from New England
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: Bostton1

I think that's Progressive.


32 posted on 12/13/2004 3:17:14 PM PST by Lib Buster (It's freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: billorites

LOL!


33 posted on 12/13/2004 3:36:55 PM PST by jer33 3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

Another article on this: Judge Hears Geico, Google Trademark Case AP via yahoo:
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A federal judge heard arguments Monday in a trademark dispute that could threaten millions in advertising revenue for search engine Google Inc

Attorneys for auto insurance giant Geico told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema that Google should not be allowed to sell ads to rival insurance companies that are triggered whenever Geico's name is typed into the Google search box.

Geico claims that Google's AdWords program, which displays the rival ads under a "Sponsored Links" heading next to a user's search results, causes confusion for consumers and illegally exploits Geico's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in its brand.

"When a consumers enters 'Geico' ... and goes to the sponsored link believing there's a connection, that is where the confusion arises," said Geico attorney Charles Ossola.

But Google attorney Michael Page said the ad policy is no different than a supermarket giving out coupons for one product in the checkout line when a customer buys the same product from a different company.

"There is nothing wrong with that under the trademark laws," Page said.

Geico filed the lawsuit against Google in May, seeking $8.65 million in lost profits and a court order preventing Google from using its name in the advertising program.

Under the program, for example, a competing insurance company could bid to have its ad appear every time Google users search for the word "Geico." When a user clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays Google a predetermined fee.

Google is facing similar lawsuits from other companies, including American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. and AXA, the world's No. 3 insurer. Last year, Google asked a court to rule on whether its pay-for-placement ad policy is legal.

John McCutcheon, Geico's assistant vice president of marketing, testified Monday that most consumers visit just one Web site when shopping for auto insurance. If a consumer trying to find Geico is unknowingly steered to a competitor's site, "We've lost one opportunity."

The Geico lawsuit, filed in May, came just weeks after Google said it hoped to raise $2.7 billion with an initial public stock offering. The vast majority of Google's ad revenue comes from search-related advertising. In federal filings, the company said it would face financial risks if it was forced to limit sales of keyword ads to generic words.

Geico's lawsuit had also named Web site company Overture Services, a Yahoo! subsidiary, but the two companies reached an undisclosed settlement in November, after Brinkema denied a motion to dismiss the trademark claims.

The bench trial is expected to last three days, after which Brinkema could issue a decision or take the matter under advisement.

34 posted on 12/13/2004 3:50:37 PM PST by Mike Fieschko (We need two parties for a debate about abolishing welfare to buy more cruise missiles. [Frank J.])
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 33 | View Replies]

To: E. Pluribus Unum
Any logical basis for what you "think," or is it really just what you "feel?"

Yes. No. Now, go piss up a rope.

35 posted on 12/14/2004 5:31:36 AM PST by newgeezer (Just my opinion, of course. Your mileage may vary. You have the right to be wrong.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: newgeezer
Now, go piss up a rope.

You're the expert at that.

36 posted on 12/14/2004 5:43:34 AM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help fund terrorism.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 35 | View Replies]

To: UseYourHead
I don't see why you think Geico will win easily.

Although I think it should win easily, it does not necessarily follow that I believe it will. I don't. This is mostly uncharted territory. Granted, both sides have good points.

I watch television by way of Dishnetwork and I see DirecTv ads all the time. If Dish had their way I'm sure I would never see a DirecTv ad.

The difference has to do with, as the title says, "Who owns 'Geico.'" It's explained pretty well in the first few paragraphs of the article. Google is profiting from its direct use of the trademark "Geico" by selling and serving the ads of Geico's competitors. The combination of those three points make this very different from your analogy.

Finally, as was implied by my previous post, I have an open mind about it. I'd welcome the chance to be on the jury.

37 posted on 12/14/2004 5:56:25 AM PST by newgeezer (Just my opinion, of course. Your mileage may vary.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Terabitten

I think that Google would be compromising their 'neutral' search results and threaten the goodwill they have built up if they were to be so capricious as block GEICO from a search request...
Good thing Google won, huh?


38 posted on 02/28/2005 10:07:17 PM PST by nyall
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson