August 08, 2011
Google Gets Default Injunction Against AdWord Gamers--Google v. Jackman
By Eric Goldman
Google v. Jackman, 2011 WL 3267907 (N.D. Cal. July 28, 2011)
This is a default ruling, so the facts are based on Google's allegations. The defendants ran AdWords campaigns for online pharmacies that sold anabolic steroids. This broke Google's rules in two ways: first, Google didn't permit the advertising of anabolic steroids; and second, the advertised pharmacies weren't certified by Google's mandatory certification program (VIPPS, "the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites"). The defendants further evaded Google's crackdown efforts by misspelling terms and opening up new bogus accounts. Google eventually cleaned out the defendants' ads through its manual "sweeps."
Without the defendants around to defend themselves, Google easily won its case. The court upheld the venue selection clause in Google's TOS and that the defendants' ads breached the TOS. As for remedies, Google dropped its claim for money damages, and the court grants the following injunction:
Defendants Gina Wyant, Gregory Gavin and Amanda Odell, and their agents, representatives, successors, assigns, and any persons in active concert or participation with them are immediately and permanently enjoined from advertising or attempting to advertise through Google’s AdWords advertising network, without regard to contact name, address, or email address and without regard to what URL or website is advertised.
From time to time, Google goes on the offensive against folks it thinks are trying to game it. You may recall Google v. Auction Experts International, 1-04-CV-030560 (Cal. Superior Ct. 2005) in which Google sued an alleged click fraudster and won a $75k default judgment; and United States v. Michael Anthony Bradley, CR 04 20108 (N.D. Cal. indicted June 23, 2004), a prosecution over alleged threats to help spammers defraud Google if the defendant didn't get $100k (that case ultimately fizzled out). Google's efforts to get tough against its spammers have typically struck me as publicity stunts. Default injunctions and dropped prosecutions don't do anything to scare the bad guys, but they intended to persuade third parties that Google will fight for its site's integrity.
In this case, no doubt Google wanted to show the DOJ that it really hates illegal pharma ads enough to "bust" the bad guys. This enforcement effort may have some value in working out a deal to reduce its half-billion dollar exposure. As a result, we won't really know if Google won this case until we see the terms of its DOJ deal.
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