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US Court Orders Company to Use Negative Keywords 177

A US court has ordered a firm to utilize negative adwords in their internet advertising. "Orion Bancorp took Orion Residential Finance (ORF) to court in Florida over ORF's use of the word 'Orion' in relation to financial services and products, arguing that it had used the term since 2002 and had held a trade mark for it since then. [...] The judge in the case went further, though, restraining ORF from 'purchasing or using any form of advertising including keywords or "adwords" in internet advertising containing any mark incorporating Plaintiff's Mark, or any confusingly similar mark, and shall, when purchasing internet advertising using keywords, adwords or the like, require the activation of the term "Orion" as negative keywords or negative adwords in any internet advertising purchased or used.'"
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US Court Orders Company to Use Negative Keywords

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  • by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @01:14PM (#23302412)
    Orion's overrated anyway. They should change their name to BoÃtes.
  • by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @01:17PM (#23302448)
    Sorry, I should've probably also included a link []. However, one would expect that, of any websites, /. would support more than just basic latin characters....
  • I smell a Loop hole (Score:2, Interesting)

    by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @01:25PM (#23302554) Journal
    "Negative Keywords" is a Google term. Excluded Keywords the Yahoo term. The judge specifically said "negative keywords or negative adwords". So does this reach across to OTHER search engines? I would hope so and that Google has a case on their hands if they had "Negative keywords" trademarked...
  • by quarterbuck ( 1268694 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @01:36PM (#23302654)
    It is true that ORF did not turn up in court. It is also true that there is a reasonable trademarks dispute with two firms that have similar names and sell similar products.
    That said, the idea of negative adwords is a bad idea. If there is a valid trademark dispute, ORF should be forced to pay restitution to Orion or forced to change the name. But. now due to the negative keywords ruling, even if ORF changes its name to Uranus corporation, they still are bound not to advertise on a page where user searches for Orion. They essentially cannot offer their services to a user who is searching for Orion.
    This is similar to saying that in a newspaper where there is a news article about Netscape, Microsoft should not be allowed to advertise just because in the past Microsoft played dirty with Netscape.
  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:34PM (#23303418)
    You're thinking of copyright concepts. This is a trademark issue. Trademark has nothing to do with being creative or original -- it only has to do with distinctive identification of goods and/or services.

    In short, there's no reason Orion couldn't be a protected mark. The court found that it is, and I see no particular reason to think they'd get this wrong. That being the case, telling them they can't advertise under that mark is pretty much normal operation of trademarks.

    Requiring negative adwords seems a bit punitive ("since you've chosen to profit off confusion, you now must take extra care to eliminate confusion")... not sure if that's common, but what do you expect when you don't bother to show up?
  • by DarthJohn ( 1160097 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:30PM (#23303946)
    similar to how Linus owns the trademark Linux when applied to software, and somebody else owns the trademark Linux when applied to laundry detergent [].

    Different domain, different trademark.

    Heh... that summary says there are over 200 different trademarks for the term Linux.
  • by timster ( 32400 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:25PM (#23304480)
    Sometimes they are; that's why we have paragraphs. Given this particular sentence as an example, your excuse in insufficient as the thoughts being expressed are not complex at all.

    The correct defense of this particular sentence is that it is written in legalese. I'm anything but a lawyer, but even I understand the need for judicial orders to be written in a very specific style designed to minimize any possible confusion of meaning. The result is not always particularly clear as English.
  • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:41PM (#23304644)

    "Because, as I understand it, they have permission from Coke to do so."
    Your understanding is wrong. It's perfectly legal for Pepsi to say "we're better than Coke". No permission from Coke is needed. It would be condsider fair use.

    On the other hand, notice how most advertisements will say that their product is 10% better than "the other leading brand"
    There's a reason for this. It's called marketing bullshit. If you say "we are 10% better than XYZ" someone can do their own tests to show that you are lying. But if you just say "leading brand" -- what does that mean? How do you even determine what the "leading brand" is? It's meaningless and nobody can really prove that you are lying. It's marketing bullshit.

  • by Mawginty ( 882393 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:47PM (#23304730)

    The reason this injunction is so bad is that it explicitly forbids comparative advertising. You know how in the grocery store they shelve the Campbell's soup next to the store's off-brand label? That's similar to buying the trademarks of your competitors as keywords. That way, both products come up in the search results and the consumer gets to investigate both and determine which she would like to buy. That benefits the market by giving consumers more information, exactly the kind of thing that trademark law should promote.

    I realize that the First Amendment doesn't protect commercial speech to the extent that it protects other kinds of speech, but this seems exactly like the kind of commercial speech the First Amendment should protect. You can't sell an off-brand product if you are not allowed to say, "We're cheaper than the brand name!"

  • by CowboyBob500 ( 580695 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:02PM (#23304898) Homepage
    No, its perfectly unreasonable. Reasonable would be to let both parties trade as they are. Both companies have different names (Orion Bancorp vs Orion Residential Finance), just that one word within those names happens to be the same. It's like Blue Banking Corporation claiming ownership of the word Blue over Blue Finance LLC. Ridiculous.

    Recently I happened to release an album on iTunes music store. It takes 28 days to get put up there. Unfortunately another band with the same name released their album the day after mine, though they couldn't have known in advance of the name clash. Both albums are in the same genre. However, after a couple of e-mails back and forth we resolved the thing amicably by deciding that both bands would continue to use the same name, even though technically I could have forced them to change their name as I was there one day earlier.

    Legal doesn't necessarily mean reasonable
    Being right doesn't necessarily mean reasonable

    Sometimes people need to take a step back and realise that.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.