Utah Legislators Realizing They Screwed Up By Banning Keyword Advertising

By Eric Goldman

Linda Fantin at the Salt Lake Tribune reports on the meeting between Utah legislators and various technology companies (Google, eBay, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, 1-800 Contacts and Overstock.com) to discuss the recently enacted Utah Trademark Protection Act banning trademark-triggered keyword advertising.

Based on the SL Trib article, it looks like the Utah legislators are beginning to realize that they got in over their heads (Sen. Eastman’s defensive bravado that he “makes no apologies” notwithstanding). For example, the article says that the legislators didn’t understand that Utah technology companies 1-800 Contacts and Overstock.com routinely buy other parties’ trademarks to trigger ads–even though this is a well-documented fact. Rep. David Clark lamented that “I wish we had had this interaction with industry 60 days ago…We would have all been better off.” Great point! The world would be a better place if legislators did their homework first before blasting their legislative guns.

Based on this meeting, it appears the law is in stasis for now. The Utah legislators haven’t promised to amend or repeal the law (at least, not yet), but Rep. Clark admitted that “we understand we’ve got some work to do” and the AOL/1-800 Contacts lobbyist walked away from the meeting thinking litigation wasn’t going to be necessary. Meanwhile, according to Sen. Eastman, no efforts will be made to create the registry until further discussions take place.

UPDATE: If you missed it, in an April 11 editorial, the Salt Lake Tribune urged the Utah legislature to unilaterally repeal the law.