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Utah Bans Keyword Advertising 271

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the end-of-the-line dept.
Eric Goldman writes "Last month, Utah passed a law banning keyword advertising. Rep. Dan Eastman, the Utah legislator who sponsored the law, believes competitive keyword advertising is the equivalent of corporate identity theft, causing searchers to be (in his words) 'carjacked' and 'shanghaied' by advertisers. He also takes a swipe at the EFF, dismissing its critique of the law as 'criticism from the fringes.'"
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Utah Bans Keyword Advertising

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  • Damn Straight! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PixieDust (971386) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @12:48AM (#18671561)
    Because God knows that if I'm searching for "New Cars" I damn sure don't want to see any advertisements about car dealerships, finance companies, or anythign like that. Hell I don't even want results returning cars stuff. Why cant they just give me my sex in a new car porn and be done with it?!

    Stupid advertisers.

    Seriously, wtf is wrong with this picture?

    • by jlindy (1028748) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:09AM (#18671723)

      Seriously, wtf is wrong with this picture?
      Umm...Utah?
    • Re:Damn Straight! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:12AM (#18671751) Journal
      I think the idea is that if your searching for "Sam's Used Cars" you get get a bunch of links going to "Bill's Car and Plumbing Shop" before you get what you were looking for.
      • Thanks! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:25AM (#18671813)
        I didn't know that going to google.com was like going to the Oracle at Delphi. A spiritual endevour to commune with raw, unaldulterated universal truth. I was under the horribly mistaken impression that google built, maintained an operated a tool that many people found useful, and all they asked as payment was their users left over attention. That leftover attention then being sold to those who might find such vast quantities of unused attention valuable. Thank you for disabusing me of this notion, and helping me realize that google, is akin to a public service. God forbid that a person going into someone else's place of buisness be subjected to offers from affiliated businesses. I much prefer the Mormon position of people being denied adaquate legal healthcare in a commercial health establishment based on particular whims related to imagined magic.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by paesano (784687)
          "I much prefer the Mormon position of people being denied adaquate legal healthcare in a commercial health establishment based on particular whims related to imagined magic."

          How can you expect reasonable people to accept your opinion on anything when you spew such uninformed, bigoted nonsense. Apparently, you know absolutely nothing about Mormon attitudes on health care, but yet you feel the need to comment on it. I can hear the snickers of thousands and thousands of Mormon doctors, nurses, and other medi
      • by Brickwall (985910)
        I wish the article had defined the term "keyword", and what he means by adware. For example, if I search for "Coca-Cola" on Google, does this mean I'll see ads for Pepsi? (Actually, I just tried it; you don't. And if you search for "cola" only, you get a few hits for Coke, then a whole page of "cost of living adjustments" before you get Pepsi. However, on the first page, there is an e-bay ad "Get great prices on cola"; I certainly don't object to that.)

        I guess my beef with TFA is he uses a word like "keyw

        • by sumdumass (711423)
          Well, you had to follow the links to the other blogs and then follow them to others but somewhere in there, amist all this, you see the intention is to stop pespi from using "coke, coca cola" and stuff like that in the keywords for the pepsi site so it does come up first when searching for Coca Cola.

          At least that is the impression of the intentions of the law form piecing everything together.

          I suspect is happens on a smaller scale were some smaller or maybe a startup company does this to get attention when
    • Re:Damn Straight! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:25AM (#18672129)
      Before you dismiss these laws, read these posts discussing the problem and the legality:

      http://senatesite.com/blog/2007/04/guest-blog-utah -trademark-protection.html [senatesite.com]
      http://senatesite.com/blog/2007/04/constitutionali ty-of-trademark.html [senatesite.com]

      This issue isn't as simple as the Slashdot hordes may make it seem.
      • Re:Damn Straight! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by baeksu (715271) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @04:52AM (#18672665)

        Thank you for the links, those were an interesting read.

        I still think that these legislation is not wise.

        First, I do not think it is the job of the state to protect the success or effectiveness of a private entity's pr-campaign.

        Second, this type of legislation would put a burden on the sellers of advertisement space. Would they have to verify the legal owner of each possible trademark that a keyword could refer to?

        The link uses the example 'pontiac', and how it should point to General Motors website. What about 'pontac', 'pontiac dealership' or 'pontiac repairs'? It quickly becomes very difficult to draw the line on where the rights of a trademark owner end, and free competition for eyeballs begins.

      • How to comply (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sfraggle (212671) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @11:13AM (#18675973)
        Suggestion to Google on how to comply with these laws: add the ability for trademark owners to disable targetted advertising to their trademark, as the law requires. However, do it by completely removing that trademark from the search index. Anyone searching for that trademark should get a blank page. We'll see how many companies really make use of this feature. If you don't want to play fair, you should take your toys and go home, I say.
    • Re:Damn Straight! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ChrisGilliard (913445) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {draillig.rehpotsirhc}> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:29AM (#18672311) Homepage
      I think the article was talking about key words that are trademarked being bought by a company that does not own the trademarks. Your example of a car dealership would not apply because a Toyota dealer sells Toyotas, etc. I don't think anyone has a problem with that. But, what if you ran a small grocery store that delivers online in your neighborhood and Walmart moved in and bought up all of the searches for your store on Google. Your competitor is really stealing your brand recognition that you spent many years building. Is this fair?
      • Re:Damn Straight! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:31AM (#18673247) Homepage
        bought up all of the searches for your store on Google

        How are they going to do that exactly? Bribe Google programmers to always return 'walmart' in a search for your store?

        All google does is put a well marked advertising link at the top or right of the search. Your store will still be returned as normal by google.

        If you don't like it, pay google for advertising.
        • by Comboman (895500)

          All google does is put a well marked advertising link at the top or right of the search. Your store will still be returned as normal by google. If you don't like it, pay google for advertising.

          And how do you do that if your competition has already bought those search terms from Google (including the trademarked name of your business)? Even if they haven't, it sounds a lot like extortion to have to buy "advertising" you don't want or need just to keep your competition from buying your own name. Imagine if

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by psykocrime (61037)
            And how do you do that if your competition has already bought those search terms from Google (including the trademarked name of your business)?

            Ummm, more than one firm can have keyword ads associated with a given keyword. Google for something fairly generic, like say music [google.com] and look at the list of "Sponsored Links" on the right hand side of the page. Additionally note that if you repeat the search numerous times, the list of "Sponsored Links" keeps changing to include ads you didn't see before. So what we
      • by schon (31600)

        key words that are trademarked being bought by a company that does not own the trademarks. Your example of a car dealership would not apply because a Toyota dealer sells Toyotas
        So you're saying that a Toyota dealer owns the "Toyota" trademark?

        Trademarks are typically owned by the manufacturer of a product, not a reseller.
    • by kripkenstein (913150) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:36AM (#18672345) Homepage

      Because God knows that if I'm searching for "New Cars" I damn sure don't want to see any advertisements about car dealerships, finance companies, or anythign like that.
      No, that isn't the issue at all. You have apparently not bothered to read TFA (I know, I must be new here). Keyword advertising is 100% legal after this bill; anyone and everyone can advertise using keywords like "New Cars". No problem there.

      The issue the Utah legislators are against is (the following example is fictitious) Sony buying keyword advertisements for the "XBOX" keyword - in hopes of getting them to buy PS3s instead. The idea behind the law is that, in this example, Microsoft own the XBOX trademark, and by Sony buying ads for "XBOX", they are 'benefiting from another person's trademark'. Or something like that. To be more specific, it might be the case the Sony pay more, and people typing "XBOX" see ads for Sony, and not Microsoft. The legislators see that as "hijacking a trademark".

      Now, this is an interesting issue. In essence, this is a case of one entity making use of anothers' trademark for profit. Which does seem a little 'off', at least if you value trademarks (I do, and I disvalue copyright and patents, at least in their current incarnation in the US). However, as pointed out in the past, the real issue isn't what is 'fair', but what is possible. Implementing this law is a lesson in futility. In other words, Utah don't get it. But they are not the complete morons implied by most people's reaction to the Slashdot title for this story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        The issue the Utah legislators are against is (the following example is fictitious) Sony buying keyword advertisements for the "XBOX" keyword - in hopes of getting them to buy PS3s instead. The idea behind the law is that, in this example, Microsoft own the XBOX trademark, and by Sony buying ads for "XBOX", they are 'benefiting from another person's trademark'. Or something like that. To be more specific, it might be the case the Sony pay more, and people typing "XBOX" see ads for Sony, and not Microsoft. T
      • Consider -- a state stupidly votes through a law that might kneecap Google's earnings. The champion of the law even insults the EFF.

        Looks like a typical case of Microsoft removing a competitor's oxygen supply. It is not a conspiracy since Msoft are documented as astroturfers [google.com]...

        You might be right in arguing "Never assume malice if it can be explained by stupidity" -- but in today's world even Utah law makers should have more insight.

      • by dhasenan (758719)
        The real questions are, why is trademark insufficient? And why is Utah concerned with trademark issues when trademarks are a federal issue in the US?
      • I didn't RTFA and don't really care much about this issue (I find the practice annoying, but I doubt it should be illegal, leaving me on the fence,) but I wonder how these legislators feel about the decades-old practice of selling cheap knockoffs out of stands with signs like "compare to RAYBAN," or "similar to CASIO." I've been seeing those for years.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by l3prador (700532)

        Actually, I think the example given in the article about Google already doing this outside of the US and Canada is a pretty good demonstration that this is, in fact, possible:

        Try it yourself. As I write this, if you search for "BMW" at www.google.de [google.de] -- the German version of Google's site -- you get only ads that are friendly to the car company. If you search for "BMW" on www.google.com [google.com] -- the U.S. version of the site -- the first ad that appears in the right hand column is for Infiniti. The Trademark Prote

    • by jrumney (197329)
      Is that what he's really talking about though? Note the critical use of the word "competitive" in the summary - which is misleadingly missing from the title. I think this is more a case of doing a search for "Red Hat Linux" and getting a page plastered with advertisements for Windows Vista.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      if I'm searching for "New Cars" I damn sure don't want to see any advertisements about car dealerships

      Do you ever use the Internet for anything besides shopping? I don't know about you, but I sure do, and if I'm searching for published papers from mathematical journals regarding fluid dynamics it doesn't help for me to see advertising for "Lowest prices on "published papers mathematical journals fluid dynamics"".

      Keyword advertising is like color television in the early sixties: just not good enough yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MindStalker (22827)
      No the bill bans linking competitors when there is a trademark. As in if I search for Toyota I should never see any ads except for Toyota. Google was sued about this and won, so the federal standard is the competitors trademarks are legit for keyword ads. Except in Utah now....

  • I got bored reading the articles and I couldn't find the answer immediately. Which campaign donor paid for this, or which Mormon edict is behind it? It's obviously one or the other.
    • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:10AM (#18672053)
      Which campaign donor paid for this, or which Mormon edict is behind it? It's obviously one or the other.

      I think you might be onto something here.. It looks like follow the money. Now if I can find some data on the new registery mentioned in the article and who profits...

      Snipped from the article....

      Owners of eligible words can register the terms in a new registry by paying a nominal fee.
  • Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZxCv (6138) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @12:51AM (#18671581) Homepage
    Because passing a stupid law like this in Utah will actually have any real effect on the use of keyword advertising.

    The only real effect it will have is making things harder for advertising companies, by forcing them to filter out the dolts in Utah before serving up an ad.

    This is nothing more than some 2-bit politician trying to make a name for himself, and won't do any good whatsoever for any of the citizens that were responsible for putting his sorry ass in office in the first place.
    • Re:Great... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AaronW (33736) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:24AM (#18671809) Homepage
      All Google has to do is ban anybody from advertising keywords from within Utah... I am sure a lot of Utah businesses which sell online will scream bloody murder and the law will be repealed. Hell, just searching on "Mormon" brings up three ads, one from the church. I guess that should be banned too.
    • not sure if your link to edmunds after your name is intentional, but I am totally cracking over here! Well played!

      Can anyone say "unenforceable law?"

      Another waste of taxpayer money.
      • by ZxCv (6138)
        Haha... Unfortunately, as much as I would like to take credit for a (great?) joke, that link to Edmunds is purely coincidental. I'm pretty sure I've had that Edmunds link there since I signed up, as at the time I had no website at all to speak of, so I decided to put in the only site that I spent nearly as much time on as ./...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jgc7 (910200)
      Wouldn't it be ironic if Logical Design Solutions [lds.com] uses the law to stop mormons from advertising [google.com].
  • by TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @12:52AM (#18671589) Journal
    Utah. Politics. Internet.

    ZZZzzzzz......

    • Utah. Politics. Internet.


      ZZZzzzzz......

      Think "Internet Tubes".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by QuasiEvil (74356)
      Tune in to next week's installment of "Adventures in Utah" - you never know what those wacky Mormons are going to do next! Will they fight off evil by taking away its beer, or will the sight of a boobie in Manti bring about the apocalypse? Find out in next week's hilarious episode!

  • Damnit (Score:2, Funny)

    by quarrel (194077)
    Just when having 'mormon' was really starting to pay off ..
  • In Soviet Utah, Mormons call YOU a fringe group. OK, that was rude, but it sure was funny when South Park did it.
  • by bennomatic (691188) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @12:57AM (#18671611) Homepage
    ...how is SCO going to sell more licenses?

  • I love this game! Time to look like they care about shit or something.

    1) Make an idiotic law to solve a problem that doesn't exist that the feds will shoot down on free-speech/interstate-commerce/equal-protection/w hatever.
    2) ???
    3) Profit!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ch-chuck (9622)
      That's just what I though when my senator (Byrd) proposed a constitutional amendment allowing school prayers - it a) Doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of passing, and 2) He gets brownie points for suggesting it. So in the end, nothing really changes except the good senators reputation amongst a certain constituency. Pure politics.

    • by JohnFluxx (413620)
      I would disagree that there isn't a problem. If someone Google's specifically for one company, then should a competitor be able to have the top ad?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by k8to (9046)
        What about existing trademark law prevents it from being applied here?
  • by MaceyHW (832021) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {whyecam}> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:06AM (#18671691)
    This ridiculous combination of horrendous policy, tortured understanding of technology, and regulatory sophistication boggles the mind. The best part is, rather than attack keyword advertising directly, the law creates an entirely new form of IP, the 'electronic registration mark':

    Specifically, the law creates a new intellectual property right called an "electronic registration mark," defined as a "word, term, or name that represents a business, goods, or a service." . . . Once registered, an infringement occurs if another person "uses an electronic registration mark to cause the delivery or display of an advertisement for a business, goods, or a service: (i) of the same class, as defined in Section 70-3a-308, other than the business, goods, or service of the registrant of the electronic registration mark; or (ii) if that advertisement is likely to cause confusion between the business, goods, or service of the registrant of the electronic registration mark and the business, goods, or service advertised."
    Luckily, the system is so loosely defined and, as TFA points out, directly in conflict with existing federal trademark law that it can't possibly stand. Apparently state legislators in Utah are available on the cheap, because I can't imagine the anti-keyword lobby has deep pockets. Maybe I can get some of this money, if only there were some way to cheaply deliver ads to this small group and only the small group...
    • Maybe Microsoft has decided to use lobbying to make Google's business model illegal, that way they don't have to compete with them on their home turf!

      Or, ya know, not.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Great, so now somebody can quickly register every commonly purchasable product word (car, automobile, refrigerator, computer, etc.) and get an exclusive on online advertising to Utah internet users. Instant profit!

      As has been pointed out, it won't stand. It can't, because as written it is completely open-ended nonsense.
  • I'm so torn (Score:4, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:07AM (#18671701)
    I hate politicians, but I hate advertisers, too. Ack! (head explodes)
  • by auroran (10711) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:10AM (#18671731)
    They have already proven they can handle themselves with difficult governments.

    First Google China edition
    Now Google Utah edition.
  • Quick! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:16AM (#18671777)
    So, who will be first to purchase AdWords for "Dan Eastman?"

    I just googled him and got no advertisements, so looks like he's even cheaper than the average politician!
    • by unity100 (970058)
      For that to happen, we first need a wisecrack who has enough time and energy in his/her hands to set up a nice site about him for the keyword ad to land on when clicked.
  • by stox (131684) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:17AM (#18671779) Homepage
    Utah is one of the places used to simulate Mars landings.
  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@gmailPASCAL.com minus language> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:21AM (#18671793)
    Rep. Dan Eastman...believes competitive keyword advertising is the equivalent of corporate identity theft, causing searchers to be (in his words) 'carjacked' and 'shanghaied' by advertisers.

    Well, at least he's not appropriating the name of an entire city to make his point.
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:28AM (#18671831) Homepage
    This is so obviously wrong the reasons it is wrong may not be obvious, so here is my attempt at three concise explanations:
    1. Old-fashioned thinking says that Google is the new newspaper. This is wrong. It's the new concierge. If you go to a hotel and ask the concierge for reservations to Morton's and he says, "ah, but here is a better steakhouse that my buddy runs" -- can you imagine that being illegal?
    2. Old-fashioned thinking says that the world is hierarchical. That's just post-Aristotle Western thinking. According to this new Utah law, if you want to find competitors to Jiffy Lube, you must first identify the superclass or super superclass (species and genus, respectively, in Aristotalean terms) and type that into the search engine. Typing in a specimen (i.e. Jiffy Lube) to find siblings is called associative lookup in computer science parlance. I'm wondering when the law is coming that bans content addressable memory.
    3. Old-fashioned thinking says that there is a bright line between paid and unpaid search engine placement. Even if an advertiser is not paying for Google AdWords, you know they're paying for search engine optimization -- just not directly to Google. Will SEO be the next thing made illegal, since it is a form of advertising that has no explicit "this message paid for by..." message? And if not, do we prefer SEO (i.e. Google spam pages) to AdWords?
    • 4) He's trying for the republican ticket in '08. I think he just might get it, too.
    • by rm999 (775449)
      "If you go to a hotel and ask the concierge for reservations to Morton's and he says, "ah, but here is a better steakhouse that my buddy runs" -- can you imagine that being illegal?"

      Google isn't doing that, Google is saying "hey go to Frank's" because Frank paid them 50 cents to tell you that. It may not be illegal, but it is arguably unethical.
      • by Rakishi (759894) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:11AM (#18672057)
        Then someone should tell that to the people who've been printing phone books for the last few decades. Or have you never actually opened up a nice thick paper phone book with its orgy of keyword based advertisements?
      • by arivanov (12034)
        You are operating under the presumption that "the buddy" runs the stakehouse. In reality, the concierge gets a cut and it is not a buddy. It is a commercial relationship. Especially if you replace a few letters in "stakehouse" to get the actual customer request. That is if the customer has forgotten to wink.
  • by ElForesto (763160) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {otserofle}> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:47AM (#18671957) Homepage
    ... at least for those of us living here in Utah. They've caught a bit of flak from members of the Bloghive in these parts, especially with the hackjob [senatesite.com] responses [senatesite.com] they've got going on. Of course, these are the same guys who tried to get a special E911 tax on VoIP [windley.com] and almost passed statewide franchise agreements [freeutopia.org], so you've got to know they're not entirely with it.
  • I sure hope they stop targeting ads all-together. I would hate to be watching a baseball game and see ads for merchandise or tickets. I'd much rather see ads for something completely random like American Idol or adult videos.
  • by novalogic (697144) <aramovaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:58AM (#18672003)
    Someone put an Adword in on google for "Douchebag" and it linked to http://www.daneastman.com/ [daneastman.com]
  • by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:33AM (#18672159)
    It has been horribly overused and corrupted, but surely laws pertaining to Internet have to be decided on national or, better, international level. With 50 states passing conflicting laws, soon no employee of a tech company will be able to travel across state lines without risk of arrest.
  • bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:37AM (#18672161)
    The Utah legislators are confusing trademarks with owning a word. The purpose of a trademark is to identify a product uniquely, not to give a company control of a word.

    Advertising a competing product when potential customers search for a trademark is exactly what trademarks were supposed to accomplish.
    • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brickwall (985910) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @04:15AM (#18672509)
      Advertising a competing product when potential customers search for a trademark is exactly what trademarks were supposed to accomplish.

      How the heck did this get modded informative? Trademarks were established so that the time and effort a company spends establishing its brand won't get hijacked by someone offering a substandard product with the same name. How useful would it be if you went to the store to get "Aspirin", and there were 10 different versions with the same name, but half of them were weaker and less effective products? Yes, you can always read the ingredients but look at a can of generic corn vs., say, Del Monte. I've found through experience that the Del Monte version is always crisper and sweeter (meaning it was probably canned more quickly from fresher corn) than the generic version. However, both labels will read "corn, water, salt". If the generic maker was able to copy Del Monte's tradename, buying canned corn would be a crapshoot.

      Now, you may say "canned corn, big deal", but what if the "Michelin" tires you paid for were actually retreads or substandard tires? Not only do you get ripped off by paying the premium price, but I don't really want to risk a blowout at 60 mph.

      There is a ton of marketing research - from both ad firms and university professors - that shows that brand names are useful to consumers. The brand provides information and assurance about a certain level of consistency and quality to the consumer. For example, having tried Hunt's, Aylmer, and generic ketchup, I'll stick to Heinz. I have tried some generic products (e.g. hot dogs - for some reason I have food on the brain tonight!) that I find perfectly acceptable to their brand name versions. Here's another - I take a generic version of metformin to help control my diabetes; it's less than half the price of the brand name version, and it works perfectly well. But I've also tried many generic products (rough toilet paper, inferior laundry detergent, lousy frozen food to name a few) that were completely disappointing.

      But those are inexpensive products where the cost of testing them is a few bucks. When I upgrade to an HDTV, it's going to be a Toshiba or Sony or Samsung or LG; it's not going to be an Avanti. When I spend $2,000, I want the assurance of a brand name (quality, warranty, likelihood the maker will be around in five years).

      That's what brand names are supposed to accomplish, not to make it easier for competitors. Sheesh!

      • by Alioth (221270)
        Ironically, if you go to the store looking for aspirin, you WILL find ten different products calling themselves 'aspirin'! In the United States, aspirin has not been a protected trademark for the best part of a century.
      • Re:bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

        by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:50AM (#18673361) Homepage
        Well, partially, but the other big reason to have trademarks is to protect consumers. If you go to the store to get corn, and the various sources (i.e. businesses) from which the corn comes are identified -- Del Monte, Green Giant, etc. -- then you can expect that all corn with a particular trademark on it always comes from the same source, and will have basically consistent quality levels (whether good or bad). Other people cannot label their corn as coming from one of their competitors. By enforcing trademark protections, consumers can avoid being tricked in the marketplace.

        But even if you want to discourage one business freeloading off of the commercial reputation that another business has laboriously established, and even if you want to ensure that like-branded goods are of like quality so that consumer expectations will be met, this does not mean that competitors cannot use each others' trademarks under the right circumstances! This is still a stupid law in that it is tragically short-sighted.

        For example, suppose I grow corn, and unlike my competitors, I still use the time-tested method of waiting to harvest until I can rent an elephant and verify that the corn reaches eye-height. It is not an infringement or dilution for me to advertise that I do this and that my competitors, who I mention by name, do not. You see this all the time in product comparisons where actual products are mentioned instead of silly workarounds like 'Brand X' or whatever. It's called a nominative use, and it is legal.

        But apparently not under this law! Utah doesn't think that if someone searches for Del Monte that Green Giant cannot leap into the fray and claim (if it's true) that their corn is better. Likewise, a grocery store can't advertise that they carry Del Monte, which is kind of important given that they don't seem to distribute directly from the canning plant to the dinner table. That's another nominative use.

        There may also be difficulties with trademark fair use (which is a confusingly named but totally separate doctrine from the more well-known copyright fair use doctrine) which permits everyone to use words which happen to be trademarks in their non-trademarked capacity. For example, Apple is a trademark for computers, but apple is not a trademark for the fruit of the same name. If you search for 'apple,' and Google ignores case as pretty much everyone on the Internet must, then there's nothing wrong with the apple farmers buying up all the ads. But would this be allowed under this law? I'd be worried about it, and that alone isn't very good. Particularly given that if everyone passes or doesn't pass, their own version of this, it creates a patchwork of regulation and now I have to check all over the place.

        Frankly, aside from not surviving on its merits, I predict that the Interstate Commerce Clause will kill this in court since it makes it too difficult for businesses to engage in commerce nationwide. If people really want this -- and I think it's not a very good idea -- then it would be more appropriate to get Congress to do it. States should not.
    • Re:bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

      by asninn (1071320) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @04:29AM (#18672579)
      Really? I thought the purpose of trademarks was to allow you to build a brand identity without people freeloading off of your good name - for example, if you create a new drink and call it, oh, "Coca-Cola", then others aren't allowed to create cheap/inferior versions and also calling them "Coca-Cola" in order to trick people into thinking that what they're buying is your product, thus hurting your business when those people are dissatisfied with the drink's quality.

      Of course that doesn't mean that advertising competing products when people search for trademarked names should be illegal (in fact, the very idea that it should be is so whacky that I'm not surprised that this is from Utah of all places), but I don't think being able to advertise competing products is the *purpose* of trademarks or the reason why they were created.
  • Utah has the Internet? When did that happen... ;)
  • Which Utah based business bought this law?
  • So, has anyone heard anything about Google's response to all this? Or Yahoo's or any other large search engine?
  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @05:06AM (#18672717)
    There's keyword advertising, and there's keyword advertising. I don't have an issue with google showing sponsored ads off to the side... but not embedded within the results.

    But the greatest scum of all keyword adverts is in the vein of 'gator' et al, that rewrote webpages and literally embedded ads for competitors right within a businesses own website's content - a least from the end user experience perspective.

    The new 'gator' is that 'intellitext' crap, and frankly its just as bad, perhaps worse because its coming from the website instead of being the result of malware I can remove. (Sure I can generally block intellitext crap with FF using adblock with some effort, but that's beside the point.)

    I hate playing 'dodge the link with my mouse' with 'legitimate' website content, blogs, and so forth. I would support a law that banned that sort of page rewriting to embed advertising links.

    I've never met a user that found those ads anything but annoying. (Especially on older systems where running the javascript and building the popup would take several seconds, like my old G3 ibook, a delay triggered by simply letting the mouse glide over a link by mistake... not click on it, just drift over it)

  • Free Ringtones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rodney dill (631059) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:36AM (#18673279) Journal
    If you've ever tried to find true "Free Ringtones" you'll probably have an idea of the frustration that lead to this sort of law. It took me along time to identify Audacity 123 software, QualComm Purevoice software, BitPIM software, and a data cable as a means to create real free ringtones for my phone. Virtually every link to free ringtones had you buying a service are getting "free" ringtones only if you signed on to buy others. This is false advertising, and is an area that makes the internet useless. Again that what make the Internet the most useful (powerful search and association capability) brings it to its news for some intended purposes. Just banning the use of the word free in advertising would help. Though this would probably be impossible to implement and enforce.
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      Own up you were searching for 'Free Porn' weren't you ;)

      Such problems are issues with the way google rates pages not something that needs legislation.
      • Well the free Pr0n would be a lot easier to browse too if it weren't for all the sites that wanted you to pay for it. ...and all those d**n pop up windows. grrrr.....

        :)
  • The Utah Google Fund (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Alpha232 (922118)
    Otherwise known as the UGF, will be setup via Google Checkout. In order for Utah visitors to see search results provided by google or pages where ad revenue is generated via Google Adwords, the user must pay the amount that would have been generated if the ads could have been shown in addition to a $0.75 processing fee per transaction. Visitors looking to save money may Pre-Fund in a minimum amount of $25 with only one $0.75 fee being charged for the transaction, when the balance goes below $1.00, your acco
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:41AM (#18673309) Journal
    There are hundreds and hundreds of advertisements that go out every day in every media where they specifically identify their competitor and bash them in their ads. Like in, "Acme Garage changes oil for 9.99$, Superior Garage charges 19.99$". There are store brands of products that mimic a copytighted product. For example, the store brand mouth wash Equate specifically says, "Same active ingredient as in Scope(R)TM". Why leave them all out and bring only the electronic ads into the purview of the law?
  • Years ago the FTC green lighted advertisers to use a competitor's product in their advertising as long as it was for comparison purposes. In other words, Kellog's couldn't demean Post cereals, but they could (and do) make comparison ads. You know, "How many bowls of X does it take to get the same nutrients as Y"? Maybe I got the products and producers wrong in my example but you've seen thee ads if you watch US TV.

    Searching on a term that brings up a competitor's product isn't a problem, it's just an exten

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