According to the news “Yahoo Settles Trademark Infringement Case With American Airlines“, Yahoo has quietly settled a lawsuit by American Airlines about the alleged use of its name to trigger search ads.
Another article “American Airlines Sues Yahoo! for Trademark Infringement Based on Sale of Keyword Advertising”, mentions that in 2008, American Airlines, the world’s largest airline, brought suit against search engine company Yahoo alleging five counts of federal trademark infringement, dilution and related causes of action under the Lanham Act and an additional six counts of various state law claims, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition.
The article also states that search engine companies such as Yahoo and its competitor Google earn revenue by selling advertisements shown on the search engine webpages and on the webpages of third parties. When a user enters search terms into Yahoo’s search engine, the search terms are also used to provide advertisements related to the content of the user’s search. According to the complaint, Yahoo allows its advertisers to buy “keyword” triggers to advertisements that include both generic terms and trademarks.
My question here is if search engines infringe on trademark by allowing one company to use another’s name as a keyword to trigger pay-per-click ads. While many companies have sued over this type of practice, no search engine has yet been found liable for trademark infringement. American Airlines filed a similar lawsuit against Google, which also settled. The court could not decide the pivotal issue because these kinds of cases were settled before judging. I think this would lead most companies are very cautious to avoid using trademark of others without permission to prevent from costly disputes as this case.