American Airlines files a trademark infringement complaint against Google

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American Airlines is suing Internet giant Google Inc. for the unauthorized use of trademarks and services that identify the airline to Internet users, the company said in a complaint filed on August 16.

The complaint alleges that Google's search engine is helping third parties to mislead consumers and misappropriate the American Airlines marks by using them as keyword triggers for paid advertisements.

"In working through this business dispute, American is hopeful that it will continue professional, friendly and fruitful relationships with Google, while finding an appropriate resolution to the trademark issues," American Airlines said in a prepared statement.

Calls to Google were not returned. Google's trademark policy states, "Google will not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint."

Terence P. Ross, a lawyer at Gibson Dunn DC, is the lead counsel for this lawsuit. Ross is not a stranger to keyword lawsuits. He conducted similar lawsuits for clients including Wells Fargo and 1-800 Contacts. Ross was not available for comment.

American Airlines said the suit is an effort to protect its trademark. I t said the dispute does not seek to prevent the display of search results that reflect consumers' interests or choices. American is only asking Google to stop selling its trademarks to others who are purchasing them and related terms to confuse or divert consumers searching for AA.com or American's products.

American Airlines is seeking relief for the damages such practices are creating, according to Billy Sanez, media representative for American Airlines.

"All damages will be assessed during trial," Sanez said.

This isn't the first time Google is being sued over trademark infringement. Rescuecom, JTH Tax, Check-n-Go and American Blinds raised similar suits against Google and lost.

"American Airlines apparently decided it was worth going to war over this issue û and is prepared to pay the big bucks to litigate this case accordingly," said Eric Goldman, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, in a post on his Technology and Marketing Law blog at blog.ericgoldman.com.

"If this lawsuit runs its course, I expect this to be a hard-fought and expensive lawsuit. This complaint pleads the usual claims for this type of action, including direct, contributory and vicarious trademark infringement, a false advertising claim that the sponsored link language communicates a false impression of actual sponsorship, dilution, various soft state claims and tortious interference with contract because Google allegedly knew that American's distributors weren't supposed to buy American's trademarks as keywords."

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