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Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts

Abstract

“Trademark keying” is the practice of buying and selling trademarked terms as keywords in search engine advertising campaigns. In September 2006, a federal district court in Rescuecom Corp. v. Google, Inc. held that the practice does not constitute trademark use, a threshold criterion in a trademark infringement claim. Since Rescuecom, the focus of trademark keying litigation has shifted, giving some guidance to potential litigants. In addition, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has diverged from other circuits. While federal courts within the Second Circuit have fashioned the emerging rule that an advertiser’s internal use of trademarked terms as search engine keywords, without more, is not a trademark use within the meaning of the Lanham Act, courts in other circuits have consistently held that such internal use does constitute trademark use. This Article evaluates the diverging lines of recent cases giving rise to these two approaches, explores what implications the split holds for potential litigants, and provides general guidelines for businesses wishing to avoid infringement claims for trademark keying.

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