The latest report from the Pew Internet & American
Life Project shows that Internet search engine users are naive when it
comes to the objectivity and use of search engines. The
survey found that 84% of online American adults have used search engines.
That amounts to 108 million people. On any given day, 56% of those
online use search engines. 87% of online searchers say they have
successful search experiences most of the time, including 17% of users
who say they always find the information for which they are looking.
Most search-engine users are unaware of the
distinction between paid and unpaid results.
38% of those who have used a search engine are aware
that there are two different kinds of search results, some that are paid
or sponsored and some that are not. The remaining 62% are not aware of
this practice. Among the 38% of internet users who are aware of the
practice, some 47% of searchers say they can always tell which results
are paid or sponsored and which are not. So only one in six internet
searchers can consistently distinguish between paid and unpaid search
consumer advocacy group Commercial Alert, which was founded by longtime consumer
advocate Ralph Nader, filed a complaint in July 2001, requesting that the
Federal Trade Commission investigate whether search engines are violating
Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act ("FTC Act"), 15 U.S.C.
§ 45(a)(1) by failing to disclose that advertisements are inserted into search
engine results lists.
11 months, the FTC said that paid listings must be clearly marked. The FTC
choose not to take formal action at this time.
19, 2002: Olsen, Stefanie, Search
sites work to clean up their act, CNet:
"The commercial practices of search engines are once again in the spotlight after a recent warning shot from federal regulators over inadequate disclosure of paid links."
11, 2002: AP, Search
engines responding slowly to regulator’s request, Mercury News:
"Online search engines are built to find information in seconds. But most leading sites appear to be taking their time meeting a federal request for more transparency on how money influences their display of search
1, 2002: Saunders, Christopher, FTC
Warns Sites On Paid Listings, Internetnews.com:
"The Federal Trade Commission is recommending that Web sites using paid search listings make their advertising practices and policies clearers to consumers -- or they could potentially face legal
28, 2002: Hansen, Evan, FTC
wants paid search to shape up, CNet:
"The Federal Trade Commission on Friday said search-engine companies need to clearly mark paid listings on their sites, concluding an 11-month
July 17, 2001:
im Visier der Verbraucherschützer, Heise:
"Die US-Verbraucherschutzgruppe Commercial Alert hat bei der Federal Trade Commission Beschwerde gegen die Betreiber von acht Suchmaschinen wegen Schleichwerbung eingereicht."
Update 25, December 2004: Paying
for Popularity - Search Engines
and Paid inclusion
2002 the FTC issued a letter calling on the entire search engine industry to
provide "clear and conspicuous disclosure" of paid placement and paid inclusion,
the two primary methods of incorporating advertising into search results (also
previous posting in the linking cases section). Paid-inclusion
results simply show up in the ordinary results. Typically, users have no clue
that their presence might owe more to cash payments than to the complex
algorithms of a search engine. In November 2004 Consumer WebWatch, a consumer advocacy group, issued the study, "Searching for
Disclosure," which evaluated the compliance of 15 major search engines with the
Some Key findings:
was not satisfactorily disclosed or explained by any of the search engines
which present results from several search engines simultaneously, repeatedly
failed to adequately disclose the presence of paid placement and paid
inclusion within search results.
generally hard to find, accessible by headings and hyperlinks that often
blend in with the page, making them easy for consumers to overlook.
disclosed by the sites on business practices with advertisers - and how
these practices may affect search results - was often confusing and
search engines should make their
disclosures of paid listings more visible and clear in the future.
November 25, 2002 a class action lawsuit was filled against Bonzi Software, Inc.
because of its allegedly deceptive advertising banners that impersonate computer
5, 2002: Olsen, Stefanie, “Security
alert” ads pop up in court, ZDNet:
"Web advertisements that masquerade as pop-up "security alert" windows generated by a surfer's computer or browser are the subject of a new class-action lawsuit, which aims to rid the Internet of the deceptive
December 5, 2002: Trickbanner:
anderen eine Grube gräbt…, Heise: "Sie gewinnen keinen Schönheitspreis, sondern sehen aus wie Windows-Fehlermeldungen. Sie entstammen einer Zeit, als Durchklickraten das Maß aller Dinge in der Online-Werbung waren und haben schon so manchen User in die Irre geführt: Amerikanische Anwälte haben nun wegen Trickbannern, die beispielsweise den Eindruck einer Windows-Fehlermeldung erwecken, eine Klage eingereicht."
4, 2002: Cullen, Drew,
will rid us of fake error message ads?, The Register: "A class action suit has been filed in Spokane County Washington against Bonzi Software, the maker of the fake error message banner ads you have all seen thousands of
December 4, 2002:
gegen Bonzi Software, FutureZone: "Wegen des Erscheinungsbilds seiner Werbebanner steht dem Online-Werber Bonzi Software eine US-Sammeklage ins Haus."
Forbes.com is the most prominent
of dozens of sites that use IntelliTXT.
Vibrant Media describes its product as follows: "Vibrant Media’s
patent-pending IntelliTXT technology highlights commercial text links from
keywords appearing within pages of online content. Vibrant Media’s proprietary
technology automates the analysis and categorization of content, identifies the
most appropriate marketing message to deliver and, when activated by the user,
dynamically serves advertising messages to the right user at the right
Links created by the
software are double underlined green words in text. Ads pop open in very
small text windows when your cursor hovers over the green underlined word. Move
the cursor away, and the ad window closes. Click in the ad window, and a new
browser window opens to take you to the advertiser’s website. Unlike usual
banners and pop-ups, these ads are right there in the content of an article. So
what happened to "Anything that is an advertisement should be labeled as an
August 6, 2004: Werbung
im Text, intern.de:
"Forbes.com hat nach Angaben der Direct Marketers News testweise mit
der Übernahme von Intellitxt-Werbung begonnen. Dabei werden Werbe-Links in
den redaktionellen Text eingebettet."
August 6, 2004: Terdiman,
Sells Out. France Surrenders, Wired:
"Fark.com, one of the most popular blogs on the Net, has been accused
of selling out -- joining a growing list of new-media outfits willing to
bend old-media rules."
August 4, 2004: Bezahlte
Links bei Fark, intern.de:
"Fark.com ist sicher einigen Lesern ein Begriff. Vor allem jenen, die
ihren Internet-Zugang nicht nur zum Arbeiten benutzen. Doch Fark könnte nun
zum Auslöser für eine eigentlich schon überfällige Diskussion zum Thema
"Verquickung von Content und Werbung" werden."
2004 Forbes magazine ended its IntelliTXT experiment following concerns from the
staff, which felt that the links might blur the lines between paid
advertisements and staff-written copy.
Nutritionals filed suit against Overture, AltaVista, FindWhat.com and Kanoodle
for selling their trademark, "Body Solutions," to their competitors, seeking $440 million in damages for alleged trademark
infringement and unfair competition. All
sued search engines have paid-placement listings that appear when searches are
conducted for the term "body solutions." Body Solutions believes the
ads are misleading consumers and infringing its trademark.
20, 2002: Sullivan, Danny, Lawsuit
Over Paid Placements to Define Search Engines, Part 2, ClickZ:
"A few weeks ago, AltaVista, FindWhat, Kanoodle, and Overture were slapped with a lawsuit filed by weight-loss product maker Mark Nutritionals, and the case has implications for the entire search engine
"A new chapter in search engine law was opened last week, when Mark Nutritionals filed lawsuits seeking $440 million in damages for alleged trademark infringement and unfair competition against AltaVista, FindWhat, Kanoodle and
1, 2002: Saunders, Christopher, Weight
Loss Company Sues Search Engines, internetnews.com:
"The diet firm, Mark Nutritionals, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, and seeks at least $10 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages from each search engine, for what it termed a "willful attempt to mislead users" for their own financial
31, 2002: Lafferty, Shannon, Seek
and Ye Shall Find … or Not, The Recorder:
"For Internet search engines, the "pay for placement" business model seemed like sheer marketing genius: Let businesses bid for search terms like "weight loss" or "auto repair," and program the engine so that the links popping up point to the highest
The civil court in Nanterre fined Google 75,000
euros for allowing advertisers to link text internet
advertisements to trademarked search terms and gave the company 30 days to stop
the practice. In the trademark case, the owner of the name "Bourse des vols"
(Market for Flights) wanted Google to stop allowing competitors to include
"Bourse des vols" as a term that would generate an advertisement and
link to their own site. Google said it would appeal the decision.
Louis Vuitton also is suing Google and its French
subsidiary for trademark infringement. Lawyers for Google and Vuitton are
to attend a preliminary hearing in Paris on November 3.
October 28: Louis Vuitton verklagt
"Der französische Luxusgüter-Hersteller Louis
Vuitton hat die Betreiber der Suchmaschine Google
auf Schadenersatz verklagt, weil sie dessen Markenrechte durch die
Platzierung von Werbebotschaften neben Trefferlisten verletzt haben sollen."
October 24, 2003: Handbag
maker Vuitton sues Google, CNN:
"Louis Vuitton SA is suing Google and its French
subsidiary for trademark infringement in the wake of a landmark ruling that
could force the popular Internet search engine to change the way it sells
American Blind sent Google a letter complaining that it was selling AdWords
that infringed on its trademarks. Google places the sponsored links on the right side of of its results
page. For example, if
someone types ``American Blind
& Wallpaper Factory'' into Google's
search box, the advertisements of other companies are listed beside the search
results, luring users to click on them. American Blind
threatened a trademark lawsuit similar to one brought against Google by French
handbag seller Louis Vuitton in August (In October a French court ordered Google to
cease the practice and pay a fine).
Google asked the U.S.
District Court, Northern District of California for declaratory judgment that
its AdWords don't infringe on American Blind's trademarks and demanded a jury
trial. The complaint filed November 26 states, "Google believes and
maintains that descriptive terms (including terms such as 'blind,' 'wallpaper'
and 'factory,' which are component parts of American
Blind's trademark) are not entitled to any such treatment, and that Google's
sale of keyword-triggered advertising does not violate the Lanham Act."
December 5, 2003:
Kuchinskas, Susan: Google
Asks Judge to Lay Down Trademark Law, internetnews.com:
"Today, Google asked a U.S. district court to rule on whether some of
the keywords it sells to advertisers infringe on the trademarks of American
Blind and Wallpaper Factory."
December 4, 2003: Olsen, Stefanie, Google
wants ruling on search trademark law, CNet:
"Aiming to pre-empt mounting complaints of trademark violations, search
company Google has asked a court to rule on whether its keyword-advertising
policy is legal."
November 21, 2003: Einstweilige
Verfügung gegen Google.de, Heise:
"Das Landgericht Hamburg hat in einem Beschluss vom 14. November
(Aktenzeichen 312 O 887/03) Google.de verboten, weiterhin Werbeanzeigen für
das Keyword "Preispiraten" zu schalten, wenn der Link auf die
Domain Preisserver.de verweist."
November 5, 2003: Sullivan, Danny, Google
Faces Fight Over Ads & Trademarks In France, Search Engine Watch:
"Days after Google was fined
by a French court for selling ads linked to the terms "travel market"
and "airflight market," news
emerged that Louis Vuitton launched its own trademark-related action
October 16, 2003:
McCullagh, Declan, Google
France fined for trademark violation, ZDNet:
"A French court has ruled against Google France in an intellectual
property dispute, saying the company must pay a fine for allowing
advertisers to tie their text notices to trademarked search terms."
Earlier this year, auction giant
asked Google to block advertisers from using its trademark in sponsored
search results. eBay listed, in 13 pages, a wide selection of terms related to
its trademarks. Google complied with some of its requests.
August 8, 2003: Olsen, Stefanie, Google
ads a threat to eBay trademark?, CNet:
"Auction giant eBay has moved to block Google advertisers from using its
trademark in sponsored search results that appear on Google and across the
Bertelsmann Stiftung, the foundation which owns
the german media giant Bertelsmann, published a study about the usage of search
engines in Germany (see Transparency
on the Internet: Search Engines, Bertelsmann Stiftung) and developed a
“Code of Conduct” for search-engine operators that aims to ensure objective,
transparent access to information on the Net.
October 22, 2003: Kodex
für Suchmaschinen, ZDF heute:
"Gemäß einem neuen Verhaltenskodex wollen
mehrere Betreiber von Internet-Suchmaschinen Werbung künftig eindeutig
kenntlich machen. Grundlage ist ein Papier, das die Bertelsmann-Stiftung (Gütersloh)
October 22, 2003: Verhaltensrichtlinien
für Suchmaschinenbetreiber, Heise:
"Vor allem sollen die Suchmaschinenbetreiber für mehr Transparenz bei
den Kriterien für das Ranking sorgen, gekaufte Links klarer kennzeichnen
und auch Informationen über die Suchmaschinen-kompatible Gestaltung von
Webseiten beziehungsweise Ausschlusskritierien für "Fälscher"
Mueller, Dietmar, dmmv
prangert unlautere Suchmaschinen an, ZDNet:
"Der Deutsche Multimedia Verband (dmmv) plant ein
Treffen von Suchmaschinenbetreibern und -optimierern, um die Ergebnislisten
von irrelevanten Resultaten zu reinigen."
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a trademark infringement
lawsuit by Playboy Enterprises against Netscape Communications. Playboy accused
Nestscape of violating its trademark by selling banner advertisements triggered by the
terms "playboy" and "playmate." Playboy argued the links tarnished and diluted its brand name by associating
its trademarks with inferior products. The decision reverses a
district court ruling that dismissed the suit without a trial in 2000.
A week after the appeals court ruling, the
companies have reached a settlement in the case. The terms of the settlement
have not been disclosed. The agreement puts an end to a case, which has been closely watched in the search engine
January 23, 2004: Olsen, Stefanie, Netscape,
Playboy settle search trademark case, ZDNet:
"Netscape settled a 5-year-old lawsuit brought by Playboy Enterprises, a
week after a federal appeals court ruled that the Web company could be held
liable for the unauthorized use of trademarks in search engine ads."
January 16, 2004: Playboy
wins Net search trademark dispute, ZDNet:
"A U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday that Playboy Enterprises Inc.'s
trademark terms "playboy" and "playmate" should be protected
even in Internet searches that prompt pop-up advertisements."
January 16, 2004: Playboy
on top in internet ad dispute, Out-Law.com:
"A US appeals court has overturned a ruling that Playboy trade marks may be
used by search engines to display specific banner ads without the company’s
January 16, 2004: Playboy
gegen Netscape, derStandard.at:
"Ein US-Bundesgericht hat eine Klage des Entertainment-Konzerns Playboy
gegen Netscape wieder aufleben lassen."
January 15, 2004: Playboy
darf doch gegen Suchmaschine klagen, Heise:
"Der United States District Court for the Central District of California
hat eine Klage des US-amerikanischen Erotik-Anbieters Playboy Enterprises gegen
Excite und dessen Lizenznehmer Netcape Communications zugelassen."
January 15, 2004: Olsen, Stefanie, Web
ad trademark law to be retested, CNet:
"Dealing a potential setback to the Web search advertising market, a
federal appeals court has reopened a lawsuit challenging the unauthorized use of
trademarks in ads linked to search engine keywords."
January 15, 2004: Big
Bunny Still Hopping Mad, Wired:
"In a decision that could cast scrutiny over Internet search engines and
online advertisers, a federal appeals court Wednesday reinstated a trademark
infringement lawsuit by Playboy Enterprises against Netscape Communications."
There have been a
lot of lawsuits concerning
linking, framing and search
engine issues in the last years.
In this section you'll find
short introductions into the
different cases and links to
news articles about it.