Rescuecom Abandons Its Litigation Against Google

By Eric Goldman

Today, Rescuecom issued a press release declaring victory in its litigation against Google. But it’s an odd definition of “victory” given that Rescuecom has apparently voluntarily abandoned its 6 year litigation effort without any new concessions from Google. The dismissal notice.

This development reminds me a lot of the American Blinds v. Google denouement, where American Blinds also simply gave up and dropped its multi-year lawsuit without any concessions from Google. Note to future plaintiffs: if you’re going to threaten Google’s $20B/year cash cow, chances are pretty good that they have the resources to outlast you.

Why did Rescuecom give up? According to Rescuecom’s press release, “Google has recently confirmed to Rescuecom that it has removed Rescuecom’s trademark from its Keyword Suggestion Tool.” That, plus the fact that Google blocks trademark references in ad copy, means that Rescuecom feels it has “obtained two of the three things we initially sought in our complaint against Google.” And if two out of three is good enough for Meat Loaf, apparently it’s good enough for Rescuecom. At minimum, having low standards makes it a lot easier to declare victory when you give up.

However, this explanation is pretty hollow. Although the press release treats Google’s removal of Rescuecom from the keyword suggestion tool as a new development, it appears that Google made this change IN 2005. Wendy Davis reports:

[Rescuecom CEO] Milman says he only learned last week that Google had stopped suggesting Rescuecom as a keyword. “Who knows what would have happened if they had told us back in 2005 that they had taken our name out of their keyword tool?” he said.

Hmm…I think I know the answer to that question! Then again, if getting out of the keyword suggestion tool really was one of Rescuecom’s Big Three objectives all along, maybe they might have asked Google about it in 2005…or 2006…or 2007…or, well, you get the point. Spin it however they want, it’s hard for Rescuecom to look good while dropping a lawsuit based on a 5 year old fact.

Nevertheless, I’m interested in knowing more about this removal. Does Google have a way for trademark owners to “opt out” of having their trademarks in its keyword suggestion tool? I would expect that option to become very popular if it were well-known. If anyone has information about how trademark owners can make an election with Google, please share it.

Given the completely disingenuous nature of declaring victory based on getting out of the keyword suggestion tool, there may be a better–and more self-interested reason–for Rescuecom to give up. Rescuecom is defending a trademark lawsuit brought by Best Buy over Rescuecom’s competitive AdWords purchases of the “geek squad” trademark. Rescuecom was caught in the duplicitous position of making plaintiff-side arguments against Google while making highly contradictory defense-side arguments against Best Buy. As a result, every positive step in its Google case had the potential to degrade its position in the Best Buy case. By abandoning the Google fight, Rescuecom avoids this difficult dilemma.

As an odd byproduct of this development, Google and Rescuecom are now aligned in advancing the arguments that competitive keyword advertising in AdWords is legitimate. Isn’t there a passage in the Bible about the lion and the lamb lying down together?

The roster of pending AdWords cases (I most recently double-checked the status of these cases on February 20, 2010):

* Ezzo v. Google

* Rescuecom v. Google

* FPX v. Google

* John Beck Amazing Profits v. Google and the companion Google v. John Beck Amazing Profits

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

* Soaring Helmet v. Bill Me

* Ascentive v. Google

* Jurin v. Google 1.0 (voluntarily dismissed), succeeded by Jurin v. Google 2.0

* Rosetta Stone v. Google

* Flowbee v. Google

* Parts Geek v. US Auto Parts

* Dazzlesmile v. Epic