Keyword Protection

Utah markets itself as a business-friendly state. But it recently enacted a law that has Google, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo up in arms.

They are upset because Utah's new Trademark Protection Act grants companies throughout the U.S. a novel legal right to control the way their trademarks are used online.

If someone uses an electronic registration mark in violation of the law, the registrant can sue both the offending search engine and the advertiser. These registrants can obtain the same remedies that are available for infringement under state trademark law.

Constitutional Challenge

The future of the law remains uncertain. On April 24 key Utah legislators met with representatives of major corporations opposed to the statute to try to hammer out a compromise to amend the law. But the two sides remain far apart.

"There are some unresolved issues--particularly with Google, which has become an extremely profitable company by selling [ads triggered by] other companies' trademarks," says David Clark, Utah House majority leader and a sponsor of the law. He adds, "If we can't [reach a compromise], the referee in our system is the courts."


Steven Seidenberg

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