15 May Companies object to Google policy on trademarks
SAN FRANCISCO — When Audrey Spangenberg idly typed “FirePond,” the name of her small software company, into Google this year, she was not happy with what she saw.
Her company’s site came up as the top search listing. But just above it, Google showed the ads of competitors that had paid Google to display their marketing messages whenever someone searched for FirePond, a registered trademark.
“I was furious,” said Ms. Spangenberg, chief executive of FPX, which does business as FirePond.
On Monday, FPX filed a class-action suit against Google in federal court in Texas, saying that Google had infringed on its trademark and challenging Google’s policies on behalf of all trademark owners in the state. Legal experts said it was the first class-action suit against Google over the issue.
But Google’s acceptance of such competitive uses of trademarks has irked many other companies, including the likes of American Airlines and Geico, which have filed suits against Google and settled them. Many brand owners say the practice abuses their brands, confuses customers and increases their cost of doing business.
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