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Google wins in trademark suit with Geico
CNet News ^ | 12/15/2004 | Stefanie Olsen

Posted on 12/15/2004 2:55:11 PM PST by TChris

update Google scored a big legal win Wednesday when a federal judge ruled that its use of trademarks in keyword advertising is legal.

Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted Google's motion to dismiss a trademark-infringement complaint brought by Geico. The insurance company had charged Google with violating its trademarks by using the word "Geico" to trigger rival ads in sponsored search results. Geico claimed the practice diluted its trademarks and caused consumer confusion.

The judge said that "as a matter of law it is not trademark infringement to use trademarks as keywords to trigger advertising," said Michael Page, a partner at Keker & Van Nest, which represented Google.

Brinkema ended the trial Wednesday to issue a formal opinion on the matter. She also asked Google and Geico to settle a dispute over the use of Geico's marks in text of rival ads appearing on the search engine's site.

The ruling is a triumph for Google in that it derives as much as 95 percent of its advertising revenue from keyword-triggered ads, which appear next to Web search results. Trademarks play a central role to the sale of such ads because people often use Web search to find products and services with common, trademarked brand names such as Nike or Geico.

(Excerpt) Read more at news.com.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: geico; google; lawsuit; ruling; trademark
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Another anti-business ruling?
1 posted on 12/15/2004 2:55:11 PM PST by TChris
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To: TChris

great news.


2 posted on 12/15/2004 2:55:46 PM PST by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along)
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To: TChris
Another anti-business ruling?

No. It is another FAIR business ruling.

3 posted on 12/15/2004 2:57:25 PM PST by WildTurkey
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To: TChris

What Google does is when you type "geico" into the search engine, it doesn't just give you Geico, it also gives those paid ads for other insurance companies on the right hand side of the screen. Geico claimed that was an unfair use of it's trademark, which is ridiculous, in my opinion.


4 posted on 12/15/2004 2:57:39 PM PST by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along)
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To: WildTurkey
It is another FAIR business ruling.

I haven't been following this case very closely at all. It does seem a bit unfair to me that a competitor's ad can be tied to my company's name, though.

5 posted on 12/15/2004 3:00:25 PM PST by TChris (Most people's capability for inference is severely overestimated)
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To: TChris
I haven't been following this case very closely at all. It does seem a bit unfair to me that a competitor's ad can be tied to my company's name, though.

GEICO's got money (quite a bit of mine, at that). They can (and should) return the favor by piggybacking as much as possible on their competitors' keywords.

6 posted on 12/15/2004 3:05:55 PM PST by Constitutionalist Conservative (Have you visited http://blog.c-pol.com?)
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To: Rodney King
And when you call 411 information and ask for Geico should they give you the number for Allstate if Allstate pays the phone company to do this?
7 posted on 12/15/2004 3:06:01 PM PST by tophat9000 (We didnít rise they sunk look at the blue, water filled, sink holes map (Mike Moore Fatass divots ?)
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To: TChris
It does seem a bit unfair to me that a competitor's ad can be tied to my company's name, though.

I compare Google to the Yellow Pages. When I look up an insurance company in the Yellow Pages, there are many company's ads there, some even larger and more flashy than others. I don't think its all that bad that other company's ads appear on Google.

8 posted on 12/15/2004 3:07:43 PM PST by egarvue (Piss a liberal off...wish them Merry Christmas!)
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To: TChris
Another anti-business ruling?

Not if the business is Google.

No, I see nothing wrong with the ruling at all.

9 posted on 12/15/2004 3:09:38 PM PST by San Jacinto
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To: tophat9000

But you're not dialing 411 to get a single number, you're looking up something in the internet's version of the yellow pages. Look up Geico in the phonebook, and you'll see numbers and ads for Allstate, State Farm etc., etc.


10 posted on 12/15/2004 3:09:57 PM PST by egarvue (Piss a liberal off...wish them Merry Christmas!)
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To: Constitutionalist Conservative
Is this the same Geico that is pro gun control?
11 posted on 12/15/2004 3:10:03 PM PST by TYVets (God so loved the world he didn't send a committee)
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To: tophat9000
And when you call 411 information and ask for Geico should they give you the number for Allstate if Allstate pays the phone company to do this?

Actually, you may be on to something. I would see nothing wrong with the phone company trying to market such a service. The operator would give the number for Geico as requested and then say: "Would you like the toll free number for Allstate as well?"

12 posted on 12/15/2004 3:12:59 PM PST by San Jacinto
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To: egarvue

Exactly right. Should General Mills sue supermarkets because they put Post cereals on the same shelf? No. Same thing here.


13 posted on 12/15/2004 3:14:10 PM PST by richmwill
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To: tophat9000
And when you call 411 information and ask for Geico should they give you the number for Allstate if Allstate pays the phone company to do this?

Actually, you may be on to something. I would see nothing wrong with the phone company trying to market such a service. The operator would give the number for Geico as requested and then say: "Would you like the toll free number for Allstate as well?"

14 posted on 12/15/2004 3:14:13 PM PST by San Jacinto
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To: tophat9000
And when you call 411 information and ask for Geico should they give you the number for Allstate if Allstate pays the phone company to do this?

That isn't how it works. You enter Geico as a search word and Google gives you the search results. The competing ads are on the right hand side of the page.

I think this is just good business by Google. If you are searching for Geico, that is a good indicator that you are shopping for insurance. It isn't like Google is some sort of public service. It is a for profit search engine.

15 posted on 12/15/2004 3:14:14 PM PST by shempy (EABOF)
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To: egarvue
When I look up an insurance company in the Yellow Pages, there are many company's ads there...

...but only if you look up "insurance". If you look up "Geico", which would be in the white pages, you shouldn't be getting ads for their competitors. I have no problem with ads being tied to a generic term like "insurance", but it bugs me to get a competitor ad when I'm searching for a specific company. With the huge amount of $$ a business owner has to spend in advertising to get that level of name recognition, it's uncool, IMO.

16 posted on 12/15/2004 3:15:43 PM PST by TChris (Most people's capability for inference is severely overestimated)
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To: TChris
This isn't for the search results themselves.

This is about the ads that pop up on the left side when you do a search.

If you go over to Google right now and search for Geico, you'll see what they are talking about.

That's Google's right to sell that space to whomever they want. It's also Geico's right to buy up that space.

Three of the top four results from the search are Geico related.

Besides, Google does a good job of differentiating between the "Sponsored Links" and the actual search results.
17 posted on 12/15/2004 3:17:00 PM PST by jmcclain19 (More from me at http://www.offcenter.us)
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To: San Jacinto
I see nothing wrong with the ruling at all.

I don't either. It's no different than State Farm buying a display ad in the yellow pages on the page where Geico's listing is.

18 posted on 12/15/2004 3:17:12 PM PST by Nick Danger (Want some wood?)
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To: Rodney King

When you type in "John Kerry" in the google search box, paid advertisements for the "Girly Men of America" pop up.


19 posted on 12/15/2004 3:19:39 PM PST by snopercod (Bigger government means clinton won. Less freedom means Osama won. Get it?)
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To: jmcclain19
That's Google's right to sell that space to whomever they want. It's also Geico's right to buy up that space.

I agree that it's Google's right to sell their advertisements, but I can certainly see why Geico would have a problem with those ads being tied to their trademarked name.

20 posted on 12/15/2004 3:21:24 PM PST by TChris (Most people's capability for inference is severely overestimated)
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To: TChris

Good for Google! Screw Geico.


21 posted on 12/15/2004 3:23:00 PM PST by Sloth (Al Franken is a racist.)
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To: TChris
I can certainly see why Geico would have a problem with those ads being tied to their trademarked name

Then they can offer Google more to *not* show the ads of their competitors.

22 posted on 12/15/2004 3:33:28 PM PST by ThinkDifferent (These pretzels are making me thirsty)
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To: WildTurkey
No. It is another FAIR business ruling.

How do you see this as fair Google is making money from Geico name is not compensating Geico and is injuring Geico business in the process

Should not Geico and other business be able to tell Google that there not allow to use there other business names to make a buck?. If Google want to sell ads for Auto Insurance no one stopping them, Google "Auto Insurance" and see what Google wants to push first...

But if you Google my business name that I own and spent good money to establish in the business world then you list my business and not my competition that your making money off of or you just don't list my business name at all

Geico spent the money to make there business name a synonym in Auto Insurance now Google come along and make a buck of that fact and hurts Geico busniess in the process?

23 posted on 12/15/2004 3:35:00 PM PST by tophat9000 (We didnít rise they sunk look at the blue, water filled, sink holes map (Mike Moore Fatass divots ?)
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To: TChris
If you look up "Geico", which would be in the white pages, you shouldn't be getting ads for their competitors.

Why not? The "white pages" belong to the Telephone Company (or other publishers), not to Geico. As it happens, ads do not normally appear in the white pages of a phone book. But the reason for that is partly tradition and mostly the nature of the publishing medium.

In other words, books and other printed materials have severe limitations. There's no easy way to know that a person is looking up "Geico" in the white pages, as opposed to several hundred other individuals or companies on a particular page, so it doesn't make economic sense to have insurance advertising in the white pages. You're forced to consult a separate yellow pages section to look up categories of businesses.

But that's not true when you type "Geico" into a search engine. Computers and the Internet's World Wide Web circumvent fixed paper-and-ink limitations, by accessing enormous relational databases and allowing the kinds of services and advertisements which Google offers. That's what makes the Internet so much more valuable than old-fashioned media.

This is a huge win, not only for Google but for all of us. In truth it is a big win for Geico, even if Geico's short-sighted management doesn't realize it. Geico is a low-cost insurance provider, so anything which increases transparency and consumer accessibility to competitive information should work to Geico's long-term advantage.

Fortunately, Geico's attempt to kill the golden goose of the Internet was swatted down by a smart judge.

24 posted on 12/15/2004 3:48:19 PM PST by dpwiener
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To: TChris

Poor little Lizard :-(


25 posted on 12/15/2004 3:56:27 PM PST by Recall
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To: TChris

Then look at your search results and not the ads.


26 posted on 12/15/2004 4:01:51 PM PST by Republican Wildcat
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To: snopercod
"When you type in "John Kerry" in the google search box, paid advertisements for the "Girly Men of America" pop up."

Boy, Oh Boy!!! Yer at da topa yer game taday, ain'tcha?!?(mile wide grin!!!)

27 posted on 12/15/2004 4:02:44 PM PST by SierraWasp (Ronald Reagan was an exceptional "celebrity!" Jesse Ventura & Arnold Schwarzenrenegger are NOT!!!)
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To: TChris
I haven't been following this case very closely at all. It does seem a bit unfair to me that a competitor's ad can be tied to my company's name, though.

It's the equivalent of saying that if you bought an ad in a magazine, that the editors of the magazine couldn't put a competitor's ad on the same page.

Geico was just being greedy.

28 posted on 12/15/2004 4:03:37 PM PST by Terabitten (Alpha Male of the Free Republic wolfpack)
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To: tophat9000

Why don't you try the search and see what happens. Nothing about the search results is affected, rather than commenting on something you don't appear to know anything about.


29 posted on 12/15/2004 4:05:07 PM PST by Republican Wildcat
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To: Tragically Single

I have to say there are people who do not understand the trademark law involved. Geico spends about $200 million for brand recognition advertising. The trademark concept at issue in this case was that Google's use of Geico's trademark to "push" consumers to sponsored links with "Geico" in the title bar or text of the commercial causes confusion. By seeing the word Geico in the title or text of the ad, consumers may think that they are going to get a quote from Geico by clicking on that link.

You cannot get a Geico quote from any of the rate quoting websites. Only from Geico.com. Nowhere else. They do not share their underwriting matrix with anyone. So to mislead consumers by leading them to think that they can get a Geico quote is a misuse of Geico's trademark.

Let me give you an example. If you click on one of the sponsored links that have Geico in the title, and you think that you are getting a comparison between say Geico and Allstate, State Farm, AAA, Aig or any of a dozen others, and then you DON'T get a Geico quote, might you think that you don't qualify for Geico and therefore have to go elsewhere.
That is a lost opportunity for Geico to even "bid" on your business.

But Google, on the other hand, is paid handsomely for the use of Geico's trademark by the advertisers that want clicks produced by searching for Geico. Do THIS sound fair to you?

Not to me.


30 posted on 12/15/2004 4:14:37 PM PST by Lionround (Any litigators out there? Email me about free republic specials. dg@litcominc.com)
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To: tophat9000
And when you call 411 information and ask for Geico should they give you the number for Allstate if Allstate pays the phone company to do this?

You pay for 411. You don't pay to use Google.

31 posted on 12/15/2004 4:16:31 PM PST by Dont Mention the War (W2: Coming January 20, 2005! Be There!)
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To: TChris

Didnt Google give major money to the Kerry Camp?


32 posted on 12/15/2004 4:21:51 PM PST by Next_Time_NJ (NJ demorat exterminator)
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To: Lionround
If you click on one of the sponsored links that have Geico in the title...

Actually, none of the sponsored links have the word "Geico" in their title or description. They just say "Get car insurance quotes here."

Personally, I think Google should have just said, "Okay, fine. We'll take the name 'Geico' out of our database entirely. Have a nice day." Geico would have been on their knees within twenty minutes begging for mercy.

33 posted on 12/15/2004 4:21:54 PM PST by Dont Mention the War (W2: Coming January 20, 2005! Be There!)
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To: tophat9000
And when you call 411 information and ask for Geico should they give you the number for Allstate if Allstate pays the phone company to do this?

Excellent point. I tend to agree with Geico.

34 posted on 12/15/2004 4:22:49 PM PST by Joe Hadenuf (No more illegal alien sympathizers from Texas. America has one to many.)
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To: Lionround

I think Geico would have a point if the sponsored ads were listed as the top three or four links, but they're clearly off to one side, and plainly not part of the search results.

I just checked, and the word "Geico" does not appear in the text of any of the sponsored links.


35 posted on 12/15/2004 4:22:50 PM PST by Terabitten (Alpha Male of the Free Republic wolfpack)
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To: Tragically Single

The sponsored links are "activated" by the use of a trademarked word "Geico". Yes, they are off to the side, but do not take you to Geico's website. Also, when the lawsuit was filed, ALL the sponsored links had Geico in the title and the text. They made the advertisers take them down with the pending litigation. They will probably reappear now that the Judge was ruled in Google's favor.


36 posted on 12/15/2004 4:27:43 PM PST by Lionround (Any litigators out there? Email me about free republic specials. dg@litcominc.com)
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To: Tragically Single

You'll pay for this, Google! Attica! Attica! Rodney King! Stop gecko oppression! Free Mumia!


37 posted on 12/15/2004 4:27:47 PM PST by Dont Mention the War (W2: Coming January 20, 2005! Be There!)
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To: TChris
it's uncool, IMO

Uncool doesn't compete in a fair business deal.

38 posted on 12/15/2004 4:29:31 PM PST by NautiNurse
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To: TChris
I hear Geico is changing their logo too...
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
39 posted on 12/15/2004 4:30:13 PM PST by anonymous_user
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To: Lionround
Trademark law does not grant the owner absolute rights to use of the name under any and all circumstances. Take, for example, the current DHL ad campaign that is filled with scenes of UPS and FedEx trucks and delivery men covered in those competitor's actual logos and designs.
40 posted on 12/15/2004 4:32:03 PM PST by Dont Mention the War (W2: Coming January 20, 2005! Be There!)
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To: Dont Mention the War

That's true, however, there is no confusion created by the use of FedEx or UPS in the DHL ads. They are there only to promote competition. The ads may be misleading in that they show a gazillion DHL trucks and only one FedEx or UPS truck, but that is not illegal.


41 posted on 12/15/2004 4:34:51 PM PST by Lionround (Any litigators out there? Email me about free republic specials. dg@litcominc.com)
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To: Lionround
Geico spends about $200 million for brand recognition advertising.

Which is obviously working, since people know enough to type "Geico" into a search engine.

By seeing the word Geico in the title or text of the ad, consumers may think that they are going to get a quote from Geico by clicking on that link.

None of the ads have "Geico" in the title or text.

But Google, on the other hand, is paid handsomely for the use of Geico's trademark

Ownership of a "trademark" does not imply ownership of the "word". Otherwise you could not have a "McDonald's Lumber" or "Wendy's Boutique".

I have to say there are people who do not understand the trademark law involved.

That would be you ;^)

42 posted on 12/15/2004 4:34:56 PM PST by 10mm
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To: 10mm

By seeing the word Geico in the title or text of the ad, consumers may think that they are going to get a quote from Geico by clicking on that link.

See #36 above.

But Google, on the other hand, is paid handsomely for the use of Geico's trademark

Ownership of a "trademark" does not imply ownership of the "word". Otherwise you could not have a "McDonald's Lumber" or "Wendy's Boutique".

Right, however, if you tried to open another "McDonald's Hamburgers" or "Home Depot" you would get your b*tt sued off.

I have to say there are people who do not understand the trademark law involved.

See #36 above.


43 posted on 12/15/2004 4:40:16 PM PST by Lionround (Any litigators out there? Email me about free republic specials. dg@litcominc.com)
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To: TChris
Google is a for-profit business, not a public utility. As such, they can administer their database and interface in any way they see fit. Geico cannot claim a right to even be listed in Google's database.

If Geico is so concerned about their competitors being listed on the same page, they can purchase all the ad-space from Google.

Capitalism wins this round.

44 posted on 12/15/2004 4:42:08 PM PST by 10mm
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To: TChris

A leftist ruling for a leftist website who didnt think it would happen ?


45 posted on 12/15/2004 4:48:21 PM PST by ATOMIC_PUNK (Lets keep God and Ban Liberals !)
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To: TChris

Google owns the database. They could elimiate Geico as a search result and be completely withing their rights.


46 posted on 12/15/2004 4:51:35 PM PST by Rebelbase (Who is General Chat?)
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To: Rebelbase
Google owns the database. They could elimiate Geico as a search result and be completely withing their rights.

Absolutely. Google is, in effect, providing Geico with free advertising simply by having them listed in their database.

47 posted on 12/15/2004 4:56:40 PM PST by 10mm
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To: egarvue
I compare Google to the Yellow Pages. When I look up an insurance company in the Yellow Pages, there are many company's ads there, some even larger and more flashy than others. I don't think its all that bad that other company's ads appear on Google.

That's how I see it, too.

If a company were paying for exclusive promotion, then what google is doing wouldn't be right.

48 posted on 12/15/2004 5:18:39 PM PST by GretchenM (What we do know has been filtered through the Old Media in large part.)
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To: Constitutionalist Conservative

The primary response to the trademark 'Geico' elecits a google response with #1 being the Geico commercial website. Other responses include news related to Geico.

The suit involves Google selling advertising space based on related industry companies/competitors.

IMHO opinion Geico has no standing in that they themselves use Meta-Tags to elevate their 'match' on search engines like Google and Yahoo. They are intentionally harnessing the technology provided for profit. They even advertise with Google.

To me, the most daming evidence regarding standing or perceived damage was that a Google search of 'Progressive Insurance' produced a company advertisement in the window in question (right pane) that provides insurance (in part) through: you guessed it - Geico. Geico is suing to stop their affiliates from advertising based on recognized industry names. Silly silly silly. (Someone please tell me why some intrepid reported from oh, say, the NYT didn't try this same little trick? Wouldn't 60 Minutes have loved to have that kind of 'gotcha' for an interview last Sunday...)

If Geico could show that one of their competitors was using ther Tm as a Tag they would have recourse against the competitpr, but a search through 9 pages of Geico results on Google revealed not a single competitor.

I think Google can argue reasonably that they are an information source that analyzes a request and provides available information based on trends, tendencies, and reasobale groupings. They are more than just a '411' operator (try calling 411 and asking for 'Pizza in my neighborhood' - it's a scary proposition at best). They are like the store clerk who, when asked for Tylenol, leads the customer to the analgesic aisle, but also shows them aspirin, ibuprofin, etc.


49 posted on 12/15/2004 5:18:55 PM PST by BlueNgold (Feed the Tree .....)
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To: Next_Time_NJ
Didnt Google give major money to the Kerry

I believe you are correct.

50 posted on 12/15/2004 5:33:59 PM PST by Joe Hadenuf (No more illegal alien sympathizers from Texas. America has one to many.)
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