Google Not Liable for Suggested Vanity Searches–Stayart v. Google

By Eric Goldman

Stayart v. Google, Inc., 2011 WL 855316 (E.D. Wis. March 8, 2011)

Beverly Stayart (a/k/a Bev Stayart) has graced these pages so many times, I feel a little silly recapping her story yet again. The short story behind this case: In the course of doing vanity searches, Bev Stayart discovered that Google suggested her name plus the name of a sexual dysfunction drug (“bev stayart levitra”). Rather than ignoring these search results, as almost all of us would do, she boldly clicked on the results and decided they were worth a lawsuit because these searches degrade her sterling reputation and generate profits for Google.

She brought a similar lawsuit against Yahoo and lost. Now, she racks up a loss against Google. Her litigation quest has unquestionably helped define her reputation in the Internet law community, but perhaps not in the way she might desire.

This opinion is relatively brief and breezy, befitting a case so devoid of merit. The court references 47 USC 230 (which should have worked, as it did in her suit against Yahoo) but sidesteps it, instead granting a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the elements themselves. The court rejects Stayart’s publicity rights claim because she didn’t show her name has any commercial value or that Google made any use of it (commercial or not). Instead, “Google enables internet users to access publically available materials connected to plaintiff’s name.” The court also says Google isn’t impermissibly selling the phrase “bev stayart levitra” because clearly any resulting ads are broad-matched to “levitra.”

The Seventh Circuit already has had one chance to mock Stayart (in the Yahoo lawsuit). I wonder if she will give them a second mocking opportunity.

UPDATE: On the same day, the court also dismissed Stayart’s latest foray against Yahoo on less substantive grounds.

Prior blog posts on Beverly Stayart’s litigation:

* Seventh Circuit Tosses Beverly Stayart’s False Endorsement Claims–Stayart v. Yahoo

* Beverly Stayart Strikes Again! This Time, Stayart Sues Google

* Yahoo’s Search Results Snippets Aren’t False Endorsement–Stayart v. Yahoo

* Yahoo/Overture Sued for Search Results Snippets Containing Plaintiff’s Name–Stayart v. Yahoo