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Law Firm Can Buy Competitor's Name as Keyword to Market its Website

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 13, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Though most of the quibbling over the purchase of a rival's name for the purpose of search engine marketing has focused on corporate entities, a recent Wisconsin case focuses on the use of lawyer keywords.

A state judge has dismissed a lawsuit between rival firms Habush Habush & Rottier and Cannon & Dunphy, finding that the latter was within its rights under state invasion of privacy laws when it purchased its rivals' names to market on the internet.

As a bit of background, search engines allow you to purchase keywords that, when searched, will turn up ads for your product in addition to the standard search results. These ads are usually separated from other results and are easily identifiable as paid advertisements.

Cannon purchased the names "Habush" and "Rottier" so that searchers looking for the rival law firm would be presented with an ad for their services, reports Forbes.

Citing the sophistication of internet users, MediaPost reports that the judge found that Cannon's use of lawyer keywords was reasonable, and therefore didn't violate the law.

What's interesting about this case is that it focuses on invasion of privacy, whereas most cases, such as March's notable 9th Circuit decision, focus on the implications of search keywords and trademark infringement.

However, while those decisions tend to be rooted in law and soundly reasoned, MediaPost reports that this one is anything but. It lacks citations and indicates that the judge may have been a bit confused by the technology at hand.

So, though novel, and arguably the right result, you probably shouldn't run out and buy lawyer keywords just yet.

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