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Court Reversal Brings Surprising Loss For Google In AdWords Trademark Case

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A Federal judge in California has denied Google’s motion to dismiss a “false association” claim in Daniel Jurin’s case against it, surprisingly reversing his own previous rulings. Intellectual property attorney Eric Goldman reported the development in his Technology and Marketing Law Blog.

Jurin has been waging a legal battle against Google for years, alleging that the search engine’s AdWords program infringes on his “Styrotrim” building materials trademark.

Federal District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. issued the ruling in response to Google’s motions to dismiss various parts of Jurin’s second amended complaint in the case, which accused Google of breach of contract, false designation of origin, and false association.

Though the Judge has dismissed most of Jurin’s claims, this time he declined to dismiss the false association claim. In the claim, the Plaintiff alleges that Google’s AdWords program and its keyword suggestion tool create confusion about who the producer of Styrotrim is, or whether competitors are associated with the product.

“Plaintiff alleges that internet users who enter the keyword ‘Styrotrim’ on Defendant’s search engine, and view the websites for Plaintiff’s competitors in ‘Sponsored Links,’ may become confused as to which company is the producer of ‘Styrotrim,’ or whether competitors are associated with ‘Styrotrim,’” the Judge wrote in his ruling.

Hold off on filing those lawsuits, though, because Google’s argument in the motion to dismiss was that it had to be a competitor in the building materials industry to be subject to the false association claim. The judge denied that rationale, but hasn’t yet made a final ruling in the case.

Goldman warns prospective plaintiffs that they shouldn’t see this as encouragement to file lawsuits. “Listen up, plaintiffs: this case only offers false hope! This is a bad ruling and Jurin will unquestionably lose in the end,” he wrote on his blog. “Don’t buy your lawyer a new boat when you could invest those dollars in a better product or more effective marketing.”

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