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American Airlines Drops Google Lawsuit
07/21/2008 - By David A. Utter

Competing keyword buyers not grounded

The use of competitor keywords had American flying into the courtroom, but both sides taxied out with a quiet and confidential settlement.

A rap of the gavel sent Google and American Airlines on their way out of US District Court in Fort Worth, TX, with everything neatly zipped up and filed away from prying eyes. Unlike cases where Google fights it out over challenges to its ranking technology, competitor keyword suits against the search advertising company, like one by insurer Geico, tend to end this way.

Bloomberg said this latest case accusing Google of trademark infringement ended with a whimper, another challenge to the practice essentially unresolved. It also prolongs Google's ability to profit from competitor keyword purchases to drive ad displays.

Search for Company A, and one might see ads for Company B, or more. While those competitor ads are not allowed to display the competing keyword, it can remain invisible as a keyword buy to display the ad when a relevant search calls for it.

Google considers the practice of selling competitor keywords "invisible," no different than shelving similar products next to each other at a pharmacy, or erecting two billboards for competing businesses next to each other, the report noted.

Companies impacted by the practice disagree, and likely seethe when seeing those ads come into play. Until a challenge to the practice comes along and reaches a point where a court decides on it, rather than a settlement happening, businesses will have to keep outspending the competition for their own keywords in Google ads.