Insurance giant Geico sued Google and Overture to prevent those search engines from selling ads using the key-word “Geico”, many of which were bought by Geico’s competitors.
Geico alleged the use of its name to trigger search-related advertisements was trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of is trademarks under the Lanham Act.
Judge Leonie Brinkman of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on August 25th and denied Google’s motion to dismiss in a decision that at first didn’t get much attention. She ruled Geico CAN sue if a company buys the keyword “Geico” and uses “Geico” in the headline or text of its ad. She also ruled that Google’s selling of the keyword is acceptable.
A week later, a settlement was reached between the parties but the terms are undisclosed.
Geico is now sending threatening letters. Geico Warns Competitors About Search Engine Ads. Lawyers advise
“Advertisers need to be aware of how they use others’ names”, cautioned Monica Richman, head of the trademark department at law firm Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner in New York. ‘In certain circumstances you may buy your competitorís trademark as your keyword, but be careful that it does not lead to confusion as to source or sponsorship”.
Geico faces a skirmish on another front. It tried a bait and switch on a prominent blogger’s parents. Geico makes promises it doesn’t keep by David Bateson at Worthwhile.
I went online to find out if the Batstone family simply suffered from paranoia. I discovered that Consumer Reports did a more systematic study of the Geico promise, tasking its staffers to make a quote call to Geico. They found that only four of the 14 people who called would save by switching to Geico. The others would actually be paying more, according to a WIS-TV (Colombia, South Carolina) story on the Consumers Report test.