American Blinds-Google Lawsuit Settles

By Eric Goldman

Google Inc. v. American Blinds & Wallpaper Factory Inc., 5:03-cv-05340-JF (N.D. Cal. settled August 31, 2007)

After almost four years of litigation, the American Blinds lawsuit ended today with a stunning victory for Google. According to a copy of the settlement agreement sent to me, Google isn’t paying any money to settle the dispute, and the settlement merely says that American Blinds won’t sue Google so long as Google follows its current trademark policy. So, after spending enormous amounts on lawyers over the past 4 years, American Blinds gained absolutely nothing from the litigation. Instead, American Blinds ends the litigation worse than when it started (putting aside the legal fees); it had a judge declare two of its purported trademarks unenforceable, and it wrote a check to Google as a sanction for mismanaging the discovery process.

Some purists may be disappointed that we won’t get a jury trial on consumer confusion out of this case (the trial had been scheduled for November). My only disappointment is that it took this long to get rid of a case that was ill-advised from the get-go.

As for lessons learned from this case, I think American Blinds’ complete capitulation is the latest reminder to plaintiffs that it’s often irrational to bring lawsuits over keywords. We already knew this–800-JR CIGAR wasted 6 years fighting over Yahoo’s generation of $345 from keyword sales; and in the Buying for the Home lawsuit, the plaintiff ended up writing a $10,000 check to the defendant to settle up the lawsuit it instigated. But this case reiterates that keyword-related lawsuits can be a sucker’s bet.

UPDATE: I have posted a copy of the settlement agreement.

UPDATE 2: According to the Recorder, American Blinds says it gave up the case “for financial reasons” and because American Airlines is in a better position to challenge Google.