Google AdWords Broad Match = Potential Typosquatting Lawsuits for Advertisers

Avi Wilensky, a friend of mine, recently got a cease and desist letter from Realogy Corporation because his Google broad match ads for Mark David NY ended up on a dirty Google syndication partner site. In spite of many attempts to contact Google, they have remained silent on the issue, and continue to serve ads on, and thousands of other sites just like it.

Google could choose to attempt to keep their network clean, but there is too much money there to ignore it. They are the spam police telling you how you should link. They are not to be questioned in their business practices. When they screw up, it is the fault of an algorithm or a reflection of the democratic nature of the web, and they didn't know any better.

Published: September 7, 2007 by Aaron Wall in search engines vs law


September 7, 2007 - 12:42pm

Just so we don't end up in a similar situation, can you expand on what happened? Followed the links, but couldn't put it together. What kind of ad was showing, and what kind of "dirty site"?

as for G... Somebody, someday will fill the void of transparency in search engine operations. Until then, I guess we just split off riskier keywords from the search & content networks.

September 7, 2007 - 2:05pm

Here's a step by step of what happened in a nutshell. The only thing you can do to avoid a similar situation is by opting out of the Google contextual network.

1) Adwords campaign created with CONTENT match turned on.
2) Google serves my ads on third party sites relevant to my keyword set.
3) Ad ends up on a domain that is a cybersquatting MFA site. A domain that plays of the mispelling of a company trademark, with the sole purpose of serving AdSense ads.
4) Trademark holder files cease and desist not against Google, but against me - the Adwords account holder.
5) I have to bear the time and cost of satisfying the ceast and desist, including turning over any profits earned from the advertisements.
6) Google's legal team remains silent, not giving any guidance on how to resolve the issue.
7) Even after notifying Google about the dirty site, and providing them a copy of the legal paperwork, the site still continues to serve Adsense, and Google continues to profit.

Again, to reiterate Aaron's point: Google is effectively saying - "don't spam us, keep the web clean", but if you don't, it's OK for us to profit off it at the expense of our customers.

Andrew Johnson
September 7, 2007 - 5:26pm

I'm not a lawyer, but based on what I recall from my business law courses, you would have to sue Google.

Taking the recent defective Chinese products as an example: A child is injured by a product purchased from Wal-Mart. The customer sues Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart sues the importer, the importer sues the Chinese company.

I don't know if this would apply in online advertising or not.

September 8, 2007 - 12:55am

This sounds pretty bizarre.

Am I missing something here, or can't you just put that dirty site in your "do not serve ads" list in your account?

And would other people not also have had their ads served on this site? Are they receiving cease and desist letters as well?

Personally I have a list of dirty content network sites that I'll dig up and give to Aaron if he wants to post them for everyone.

In fact, everyone could contribute to the "dirty site" list and we can all benefit.

September 8, 2007 - 8:10pm

Going after advertisers is a well known method of forcing corporate change. This technique was honed by the anti-apartheid movement. If enough advertisers complain to Google and block those MFA sites from serving their ad, Google will respond. But the mom-and-pop shops aren't enough. You need big corporate advertisers complaining in order to force a response.

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