Listings Trademark Case Fingers Yahoo, Overture

Rhett Pardon
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleges that the top search engines are using a company’s trademark as search terms to drive Internet traffic to third-party advertisers.

The suit against Google Inc. and Overture Services Inc. by insurer Geico this month claims that the search engines are infringing on its trademark and diluting its value.

The suit comes after the dot-com crash when more Internet companies – whether tiny websites or huge heavyweight – are finding that the search engine business pays.

Geico, formally known as Government Employees Insurance Co., alleges that Google of Mountain View, Calif.-based and Yahoo subsidiary Overture of Pasadena, Calif., are selling the "Geico" trademarks as search terms or key words to third-party advertisers who seek to drive Internet traffic to their own websites when consumers perform a search using one of the Geico trademarks.

The suit contends that when surfers click on "sponsored listings" paid for by the advertisers, they are likely to be deceived into believing that they will be provided with information about Geico's auto insurance policies.

But such sponsored listings often provide no information about Geico's policies, the suit said.

Chevy Chase, Md.-based- Geico is asking the court for a permanent injunction, attorneys fees and civil damages.

The suit is Government Employees Insurance Co. vs. Google Inc, U.S. District Court, Virginia, Eastern District, No. 1:04CV507.