Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Trademark Owners Versus Google From N.Y. Times

I've talked about this so many times, I just thought it was nice to see a major news agency report about it now. I also analysts will have to start looking at the revenue growth picture a little different too.

From N.Y. Times.com Growing number of lawsuits could hurt Google's ad revenue .

PARIS, March 27 - Fabrice Dariot's travel agency, Bourse des Vols, boasts a terrace lined with potted plants and sweeping views of 17th-century apartments in the center of the city.

The compact fifth-floor office is an unlikely front line for a battle of words with the online search engine Google - or "Omnigoogle," as some French critics scornfully call the giant company.

Mr. Dariot, a mathematician turned Internet entrepreneur, is an even more unlikely standard-bearer for a series of proliferating lawsuits and legal disputes that challenge Google's sacrosanct business routines.

"Google is a giant, but they cannot dictate the law," said Mr. Dariot, 41, a chief executive in a casual sweater and denim who took on the international company with some inspiration, he said, from independent French icons like Joan of Arc who were not afraid to challenge authority.

This month, Mr. Dariot triumphed in his year-and-a-half-old lawsuit against Google's French subsidiary, which has been ordered to pay him $97,000 in fines and legal costs.

Dariot and his travel companies, Luteciel and Viaticum, successfully challenged Google's practice of selling Internet advertising from rivals designed to appear with Web searches for his trademarked Web site name, Bourse des Vols, which means flight exchange.

Keyword advertising, as it is known, is the main source of revenue for Google, which posted $3.19 billion in sales in 2004, largely through charges of a few cents each time a user clicks on an ad.

The growing number of lawsuits against Google around the world could diminish that advertising revenue by reducing the number of search words that could be sold to competitors - a threat to Google's business model that the company has acknowledged in regulatory filings.

Mr. Dariot's company is one of the first to win against Google; similar cases in the United States and Germany that challenged the search engine's use of keywords have failed.

But more companies are piling on. France is home to as many as 15 cases, according to lawyers involved.

Elsewhere, other companies are pressing Google with varying results on different legal points.

In today's Investor's Business Daily, the front page story is Search Firms Find Legal Tussles In Using Trademarked Keywords .

This issue is finally getting press.

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