Ninth Lawsuit Against Google Over AdWords–Rosetta Stone v. Google

By Eric Goldman

Rosetta Stone Ltd. v. Google, Inc., 1:09-cv-00736-GBL-JFA (E.D. Va. complaint filed July 10, 2009)

[Note: some of you may wonder how my litigation count reached #9 when my last blog post in this series was at #7. I subsequently realized that I had forgotten to include Ezzo v. Google, a doomed-to-failed pro se lawsuit filed pre-Rescuecom. Indeed, I remain unclear precisely how many lawsuits are pending; the number could be greater than 9].

Kudos to Rosetta Stone for its fine PR work. It was able to get a number of major media outlets to cover its lawsuit against Google alleging trademark infringement and related claims for Google’s AdWords practices, even though by my count this is merely the 9th pending lawsuit and these lawsuits are becoming a near-daily routine.

Obviously, I’m suffering a little ennui on this topic. Another trademark owner doesn’t like Google’s AdWords practices and decided to sue in court. And in other breaking news, the sun rose in the east and set in the west today.

How routine has this become? Rosetta Stone’s law firm is Gibson Dunn, which includes Terence Ross on the team. Terence lost some of the early WhenU keyword ad cases including the once-seminal 1-800 Contacts v. WhenU ruling. He also sued and procured a settlement from Google on behalf of American Airlines. Gibson Dunn’s team also has a pending lawsuit against Yahoo on behalf of American Airlines. I haven’t put all of Gibson Dunn’s complaints side-by-side, but I have observed over the years that they have mastered the skill of cloning-and-revising–right down to recycling a stock phrase that might become Terence Ross’ signature line (and perhaps his trademark some day?) that the plaintiff “does not bring this lawsuit lightly.” (Para. 6 of the complaint; compare Para. 6 of the AA v. Google and AA v. Yahoo complaints). I’m glad Gibson Dunn’s clients don’t sue lightly. I wish all lawyers could say the same of their clients. Then again, at the lofty fees I suspect their clients are paying for the firm’s services, this statement is probably the one assertion in the complaint that no one–not even Google or the judge–could possibly dispute.

As a partially cloned-and-revised complaint, it shouldn’t surprise you that this complaint doesn’t break much new ground. See my deconstruction of the American Airlines v. Google complaint–because many of the provisions were recycled, my commentary of that complaint applies almost in toto. However, a couple of small points that did jump out at me from this complaint:

* Rosetta Stone has some really, really weak trademarks. “Global Traveler”??? “Language Library”??? “The fastest way to learn a language. Guaranteed”??? Are you serious?

* Among the keyword advertisers that Rosetta Stone complains about are retailers who sell both Rosetta Stone and other language products. Whoa. I’ll be interested to see how Rosetta Stone gets around the First Sale doctrine for those advertisers.

Two concluding thoughts

* Is it time for these 9+ lawsuits to be consolidated in a multi-district litigation yet? From my perspective, that seems inevitable, but I’m not much of an expert on the procedural aspects of MDLs.

* Any predictions on whether another trademark lawsuit over AdWords will be filed in the month of July?

The other eight lawsuits I’m tracking:

* Ezzo v. Google

* Rescuecom v. Google

* FPX v. Google

* John Beck Amazing Profits v. Google

* Stratton Faxon v. Google (not initially a trademark case)

* Soaring Helmet v. Bill Me

* Ascentive v. Google

* Jurin v. Google