Another Fray Over Trademarking Keywords

Are keywords trademarkable?

Add another case to that fray. The 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has reinstated Playboy Enterprise‘s lawsuit against America Online’s Netscape subsidiary. The lawsuit, first brought in 1999, claims that Netscape infringed and diluted Playboy’s trademark by presenting ads for rival companies when users entered ‘playboy’ or ‘playmate’ as keywords. Playboy claims that users could wrongly assume that the banner ads — especially those that were poorly labeled or unlabeled — were associated with Playboy. Excite, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, is also named as a defendant in the case because its technology was used by Netscape. A lower court had dismissed Playboy’s lawsuit, but Playboy appealed to the higher court.

Kevin Heller, Esq., over at Tech Law Advisor, provides more information about the case.