New AdWords Trademark Lawsuit–JTH Tax v. Google

JTH Tax, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 2:05CV200 (E.D. Va. complaint filed April 4, 2005). JTH runs “Liberty Tax Service.” A company, “freeadvicecenter.com” runs an AdWords ad (the complaint does not specify what keywords triggered it) that has the title “Liberty Tax Service.” After a fruitless cease and desist letter to Google, JTH is suing Google for an injunction.

There are two odd things about this case. First, why didn’t Google take the ad down? Its trademark infringement policy says that ads containing third party trademarks will be taken down, so this seems like a routine application of that policy. Perhaps Google did take it down, but not fast enough for JTH. I did a search today on “Liberty Tax Service” in Google and the following ad for freeadvicecenter.com came up:

Tax Relief

How to Slash your Taxes and get

the Tax Relief you are entitled to.

freeadvicecenter.com

Second, how valuable is this injunction to JTH? From my perspective, especially given Google’s policy, it seems like a little more leaning on Google would have been a much lower-cost method of resolving the matter than running off to court. (The complaint says that the cease and desist letter was sent March 1, 2005, so JTH waited a total of about 35 days to pull the trigger). Perhaps this is just a publicity stunt; otherwise, I’m finding the lawsuit hard to understand on a cost-benefit basis.

UPDATE: Cooley Godward reports that this case was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff shortly after filing. Smells like a publicity stunt to me.

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