Archive for the ‘Trademark’ Category

Google Sells Radio Assets, Buys Video Firm

August 5, 2009

Picture 17Google has reportedly found a buyer for its radio assets. The Radio Ads program, built around the dMarc acqusition, was formally shuttered in February. According to the article:

WideOrbit Inc., a privately held company that makes software for the broadcast TV and radio industries, said Wednesday it has agreed to buy Google’s technology for automating radio ad placement. The San Francisco-based company did not disclose financial details. It will inherit 3,600 customers and an undisclosed number of employees.

One imagines WideOrbit is getting something of a deal.

Earlier this week TargetSpot,”the nation’s largest Internet radio advertising network,” announced that Eyal Goldwerger was taking over as CEO. The company says:

TargetSpot has grown to . . . more than 15.3 million unique listeners per month through distribution partners such as CBS RADIO, FOX News, Yahoo! LAUNCHcast and AOL Radio.

Also earlier in the week Pandora announced a sales deal with Clear Channel. So perhaps Google exited the Radio Ads business a bit too early. What do you think?

Separately Google announced acquisition of On2 Technologies, a company that does video compression. Essentially this will help support video on YouTube and the Internet more broadly (potentially also in mobile).

Advertisement Granted Trademarks

September 30, 2008 announced that it had been granted a trademark for its name/brand and logo. It’s not quite the same as trademarking “local search,” but getting close.

In roughly March, 2005 the then InterchangeUSA acquired the “” domain for about $700K. Compare that with the roughly $100 million BellSouth and SBC (now AT&T) paid for The nearly $100 paid for “” was largely about acquiring online a trademark that legally wasn’t available offline (“yellow pages”). In the US, as opposed to elsewhere in the world, the “yellow pages” trademark doesn’t exist — anyone can publish a “yellow pages” directory. As the industry shifts increasingly to digital platforms (Internet, mobile) the $100 million figure doesn’t look quite as massive as it did at the time. 

Back to . . . One of the challenges for the site has been to establish a “brand” and rise above the general “noise” in the online local market. While I would say that objective hasn’t been accomplished at this point, the site has made great strides from where it was.

Google’s Uncertain Trademark Policies

August 25, 2006

Awhile ago I complained that Google wouldn’t let me use my own name “Sterling” in an AdWords campaign to promote myself. I was rejected from using it in the signup process, with Google asserting it was a trademarked term. There seemed to be nothing I could do about it. So this was the ad I ultimately wound up running for that reason:

Looking for Greg?
Strategic thinking about local.
His blog and contact info

At the time I complained on this blog that Google was being sloppy and that this enforcement was in fact a legally incorrect implementation of trademark safeguards. In the context in which I was using “Sterling” it was not and indeed cannot be a protected third-party trademark.

I put that one to bed a long time ago. But I just ran across another example of sloppiness or uneven enforcement on Google and so felt compelled to mention it. Here’s an ad that was triggered when I put the query “Craigslist” into the Google Toolbar to do a navigational search:

Find local buyers & sellers online.
Deal directly. 100s of listings.

Looks like an ad for Craigslist. Site owner LiveDeal is a direct Craigslist competitor, yet it has somehow been permitted to not only use “Craigslist” in the text of the ad, but in the title.

Speaking as an informed layperson, I think pretty clearly this is a trademark violation. Among other things, it would almost certainly create consumer confusion (one of the factual tests for a trademark infringement claim), with someone thinking s/he was going to Craigslist by clicking on the link. “” is quite a bit less prominent than Craigslist in the ad.

I don’t point this out to criticize LiveDeal’s conduct (although the company should know better in this case) so much as to point out inconsistency in Google’s behavior, at least as these contrasting examples reflect.

There need to be explicit rules, consistently enforced. Here in its Trademark Complaint Procedure, Google disavows other than very limited duties in resolving potential trademark disputes among advertisers.

If it’s going to take that position it should not block the use of terms in some ads on the front end while permitted clear trademarks to be improperly used in others.

They Won’t Let Me Buy My Own Name

April 20, 2006

In the ongoing confusion over search-engine trademark policies a strange thing has happened. When I left The Kelsey Group I decided to run an AdWords campaign to let people know how to find me. I tried to use my own name "Greg Sterling" in the headline (the link at the top of the text ad). Google wouldn't let me saying that "Sterling" was a trademarked term (it's not and it can't be a trademark violation in this context). I requested an exception but that wasn't granted.

So I'm forced to use this ad:

Looking for Greg?
He's still doing local. Here's his
new blog and contact info

Greg? Kinda weak.

I had thought about "Greg Ster" to suggest my last name, but thought it would be too cute and unprofessional. I can of course use "Greg Sterling" as a keyword, which I have done. But to my suprise and displeasure I discovered that when I recently searched for my ad on Google, this came up:

Greg Sterling
Speaking at Ad-Tech? Me Too. Would
You Like to Catch Up for a Coffee?

It turns out this is an Indian company whose CEO is speaking at Ad-Tech in SF. As far as I can tell they've used the speaker list and every speaker name as keywords for their campaign. That's not prohibited, but the idea that this company is being allowed by Google to use my name in its headline (when I could not) is strange and reflects the confusion and flaws in Google's enforcement of its trademark/editorial policies.

I've contacted the offending company and asked them to stop using my name in their headline. I don't have time right now to file a formal complaint with Google.

Search and Brand Diversion

April 17, 2006

Here’s an interesting Pamela Parker piece on ClickZ about how brand-oriented searches get diverted about 15% of the time (Hitwise data). I performed a search for the Washington Post on Google the other day and found that the NY Times was buying it as a keyword.

I’ll have more to say on this later.

What’s in a Name(TM)?

January 28, 2006

Almost everyone is using the term “social search” to describe a rash of “Web 2.0 — style” offerings (whether product features or new sites) that try and blend community with another application (e.g., search, shopping, etc.).

Here’s a post by Danny Sullivan (SEW) about a dispute between Judysbook and (presumably Yahoo!) regarding Judysbook’s trademark of the term “social search.” Judysbook has been granted the registered trademark to the term

As Danny suggests in his post, “social search” is a little like a “generic term” that is widely used and has been used for a few years with increasing frequency as the market has evolved.

Now Judysbook can send “cease and desist” letters to the host of companies directly or indirectly using the term in their marketing. If they do it won’t necessarily do anything for them; however if they get a lot of coverage on this story that might be good for their consumer awareness.

Judysbook, which is run by smart people, will sink or swim not on the marketing value of the term “social search,” but on the merits of their user experience and the value that they’re delivering to local advertisers (to which they sell phone leads, otherwise know as “pay per [phone] call.”)

Speaking of which, the term “pay per call” has been TM’d by Ingenio. So everyone else in the phone leads business needs to use another term — and they’re starting to.

In the PPCall arena there might be a few more (marketing) reasons (than in “social search”) to assert trademark rights over “pay per call.” Yet, again, whether a service is called “pay per call,” “pay per phone call,” “phone leads,” “performance calls,” whatever . . .it’s going to be the ultimate value delivered to Ingenio’s advertisers and its partner distribution network that determines whether the company achieves its ultimate business objectives.

“Google” and “Yahoo!” are essentially nonsense terms that have become mega-brands because of what they actually do and deliver for people.

In fact, if you start a company today and you want your brand and your URL to be the same you have to “make up a word,” as Richard Barton, CEO of new real estate site Zillow, told me today (more on Zillow later).

Somebody needs to write a piece about all the distorted names and brands of new companies out there because all the URLs are taken. Case-in-point: Here’s another new (health) search engine: Kosmix.