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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Courts - Lawyer advertising tactics on internet upheld

Bruce Vielmetti reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 8th about a case where one law firm purchased another's name from Goggle and other search sites as a "keyword" to drive traffic to their own site. In other words, if you typed in the second's name, one of the results that would appear first would be the law firm that had purchased the name. Some quotes from the long story:

In a long-awaited decision over Internet lawyer searches, a Milwaukee County judge on Wednesday in essence told veteran plaintiff lawyer Robert Habush, "Welcome to the 21st century."

Circuit Judge Charles F. Kahn Jr. agreed with Habush that a competing law firm had invaded Habush's privacy by purchasing his name to drive Internet searches to their own website.

But Kahn also found that, in the context of modern, healthy business competition, it was akin to lawyers buying display ads that appear next to line listings of other lawyer in the Yellow Pages. That's not an unreasonable use of the name for commerce, Kahn found, and dismissed Habush's lawsuit. * * *

Habush sued after discovering the Cannon firm had purchased the words habush and rottier as Google, Yahoo and Bing search terms that return sponsored links to the Cannon law firm website, in addition to the "organic" search results for Habush, Habush & Rottier.

He sought an injunction halting the practice. Both sides litigated intensely in the following months. Because both sides agreed there were no material facts in dispute, the case was decided by Kahn on competing motions for summary judgment, which were argued in February.

Though he ruled for Cannon & Dunphy, Kahn spent much of his 27-page decision shooting down several of its defenses.

For much more, see this Forbes blog entry.

And here is an analysis of, and link to, the opinion, from the Technology and Marketing Law Blog.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 12, 2011 10:34 AM
Posted to Courts in general