American Airlines and Google Settle Keyword Advertising Lawsuit

By Eric Goldman

American Airlines and Google have settled American Airlines’ trademark lawsuit over Google’s sale of keyword advertising. The settlement terms are confidential. See the unenlightening stipulation and the judge’s dismissal order. The Justia page. The Bloomberg News story.

Because the terms are confidential, we don’t know who “won” this lawsuit (other than the lawyers, of course). I did a search this morning for “American Airlines” and American Airlines had the only keyword ad. No third party ads showed, which as I recall is different than past results, but it’s possible that American Airlines has run third party advertisers off the term one-by-one rather than getting Google to block the term for them. I also did a search this morning for “aa.com” and got one third party ad for lowfares.com. A search for “AADVANTAGE” showed two third party ads, one for an AAdvantage credit card (probably authorized) and the other for firstclassflyer.com (probably not).

Based on this data, my initial hypothesis is that Google did not make any special concessions to American Airlines to block keyword ads on their trademarks. Perhaps Google made other concessions. Or perhaps American Airlines completely wasted its time and money. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that a company with the word “American” in its trademark took on Google and got nothing.

This settlement is presumably a disappointment to trademark diehards who were cheered by a well-financed and well-recognized trademark owner taking on the mighty Google. Now, this case isn’t going to break any new ground in the Fifth Circuit. Combined with Utah’s repeal of the Utah Trademark Protection Act, the only major threat to Google’s keyword ad practices in the United State still pending is the Rescuecom appeal in the Second Circuit, which I must confess I remain nervous about.

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