back to article Google Adwords dive-bombed by American Airlines

Yet another trademark owner has gone to war over Google's keyword advertising. But this time it's a name everyone knows: American Airlines. Yesterday, the world's largest airline slapped a federal suit on the world's largest search engine, claiming that Google's cash-cow of an ad system infringes on American's rather extensive …


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  1. Chris Simmons


    I know HTML won't work...but


    But this time it's a name everyone knows: American Airlines.



    Who? Amerikkkan Airlines? Isn't that the CIA front?


  2. Sampler

    RE: Who

    British Airways - now that's a worldwide well known brand, outside there own island few have heard of this piffling little American Airlines.

    /coat acquisition in progress....

  3. GrahamT


    AA the trademark of American Airlines? What do the Automobile Association (formed 1905) and Alcoholics Anonymous (founded 1935) have to say about that?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Automobile Association?

    Alcoholics Anonymous?

    Architectural Association?

    Advertising Association?

  5. Jay Zelos


    Just scrap em, how on earth the words 'American' and 'Airlines' can *belong* to anyone boggles the mind.

  6. James Butler

    Let's see ...

    I wonder how the US courts will view these searches:

    "how many american airlines are there?"

    "flight on an american airline"

    "where is my local aa meeting?" (Alcoholics Anonymous)

    "i need aa breakk fromm lawsuits"

    God forbid anyone bids on "american airline" or "aa". People might get confused.

    And while you're at it, Google, make sure there are no organic listings whenever someone searches for a trademarked name. It doesn't matter that you put the "real" American Airlines site at the top, the others must go ... worldwide!!

    Remember the Playboy domain argument? Hugh Hefner didn't register quickly enough, and some other guy got it. So Playboy Inc. sued them ... and lost ... because although Playboy was a registered trademark WITHIN THE CONTEXT of Playboy Inc.'s trademark applications, the word "playboy" is generic ... just like the adjective/noun combo "american" "airline".

    Then again, the battle for came out differently, because "Estee Lauder" is a personal name, in addition to being a corporate identity. The original owner of was a distributor for those products, maybe like the distributors of American Airlines' ticket are.

    American Airlines should pay someone to name their kid "American Airlines" and then acquire the rights to that kid. That should fix it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Airline Names?

    If British Airways flys out of Britain,

    American Airlines Flys out of American

    Singapore Airlines flys out of Singapore

    Where does Virgin Airways fly out of?

  8. Fluffykins Silver badge


    And I thought it as AA for the Automobile Association.

    Or Alcoholics Anonymous, especially for journalists.

    Does the richest third world nation on the planet have an airline, then?

  9. James

    how does American Airlines have so much to pay its lawyers?

    Aren't they a recipient of federal bailout money?

    How can they afford to pay their lawyers for such a frivolous lawsuit

  10. stuart Thompson


    When will American Airline's try to sue Alcoholics Anonymous then??

    Should be an interesting lawsuit

  11. Simon

    But Shirley

    If you call your company American (as in the country) Airlines (as in the industry) you're going to keep getting this problem.

    It'll be very hard to run an airline in America and not use those particular words.

    Only an American would think they have a case, anyone with an ounce (I use imperial so as not to confuse the poor dears) of common sense would see it for what it is. Free publicity and a whole lot of stupidity!

  12. The Cube

    American Airlines? What about Gecko?

    Why is a small lizard suing Google, when did it trademark itself and how did it engage a lawyer?

    Or is it a class action suit on behalf of the whole species?

    What will they do with the settlement if they win? Buy a few million very small Alligator skin shoes?

  13. Matt Horrocks


    So they don't want them to let people use 'AA' as a keyword? There's countless companies whose initials are AA - e.g. the Automobile Association.

    It's just a typical American sueing-frenzy.

  14. Adrian Crooks

    Feign ignorance all you want, I know you are not faking ;)

    While it may be a bit much to say AA is oh so well know, it is well known enough to pull an adword fakeout on. Google seems to be behaving badly by recommending someone piggy back off the fame of others, when they may be pulling the equivalent of a bait and switch with a competitors product. I know a company that had issues with Google and advertisements placed by competitors pretending to be said company. It happens, and Google seems unwilling at times to pull the advertisements.

  15. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Come on Britain, shape up!

    We can't let the US of A have all the stupid lawsuits.

    Maybe EasyJet could do something to redress the balance.

    How about suing workers in the the sex industry for describing themselves as EasyWomen.

  16. leslie


    No company should be allowed to copyright any word in the dictionary, unless they invented it, if they invented it, then its theirs, if they did not invent, but have copyrighted it, what grounds have they for any worth it has or has earned, maybe they should pay commission to the person who did invent it.....Not that I can see many ancient britons coming forward to file suit...

    So, with that in mind I shall invent a word, err, hang it its harder than you think this word inventing business.....

    I'll get back to you on this...

    Maybe I should just buy the rights to old childrens stories, then go after people who remake them, scream breach of copyright and screw them for every penny, easier money earner....Oh damn thats been done already.....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Geico is a pretty well know brand"

    Is it?

    Who are they?

    What do they make?

    Does anybody outside America (the vast majority of us) care?

  18. Murray Pearson


    I have a suggestion for people concerned about having their @$$es sued by American Airlines: Anytime you need to use "AA" just put "PAHOEHOE", which along with aa is a form of Hawaiian pillow lava............

  19. john frey


    It's been established in the u.s. courts that MS owns the Windows trademark.

    I guess Google better remove all those search results that have anything to do with a product that fits in a hole in my wall and allows me to look out the hole and prevents the wind and rain from coming in through the hole.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AA versus AA not gonna happen

    "American Airlines" daren't sue "Alcoholics Anonymous" over the acronym AA --- to do so would be to assert that consumers are likely to confuse a collection of airplane pilots with a collection of recovering drunks, and the airlines are trying to discourage that linkage, not highlight it.

  21. M Howling

    RE: Airline Names?

    Where does Virgin Airways fly out of?

    The Virgin Islands of course

  22. Edward Pearson

    Just another...

    Frivolous Patent Lawsuit. Should be chucked out.

  23. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    You lot (well, a lot of you lot) seem confused about what a trademark is...

    A trademark allows you the exclusive use of a mark in a particular type of business. So there's no confusion between the trademark AA referring to an organization formerly intended for British motorists but now, well, not and the trademark AA referring to an airline.

    Your best clue may well lie with Apple and, umm, Apple. One makes records, the other wishes it did.

    And for those who think this is about searches like "I want to fly only on American airlines", think again. This is about people SELLING "space" on that search...

  24. o4tuna


    I knew somebody that had to go to alcohol treatment.

    After a couple days, they told her that they were going to take every body to an AA meeting.

    She wanted to know why she would need to know how to change a tire...

  25. Name

    Only in America

    If Google wasn't a billion dollar company this lawsuit wouldn't even have happened. It's all about the money and AA trying to make a quick buck.

    For more interesting news visit

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Didn't they try this before they don't own those

    words just as they don't own their own logo it's

    too generic once agin we have to put up with

    lawyers trying to make a case which doesn't

    stand up not together not seprate they don't

    work as a trademark just as Standard Oil doesn't

    make it as a trademark but Exxon does see the difference

    fucking tired of retarded stories like this, these people

    need to have their p****s sanded down so they stop

    putting them in everyones way.

  27. Zulon

    RI "AA"

    Let them sue each other to Kingdom come....

  28. Ole Juul

    They could be up the "creek"

    People have already pointed out the obvious, such as American Airlines is not really that famous. I certainly hadn't heard of it. Also the difference between "American Airlines" and "American airlines" although completely different concepts, is not normally differentiated by a search engine.

    What has not been mentioned yet, is that "AA" is a vovel ligature similar to "AE" and "OE". This is much used in old English, and still in words like encyclopaedia (encyclopædia) or names like Aaron.

    It is also very much current in scandinavian languages, although they more often use more modern symbols for those letters eg. Æ, Ø, and Å . The last three letters of the Danish alphabet are "ae", "oe". "aa", and the letter "aa" is also the name for creek. The double letters and the vovel ligatures are completely interchangable. Try typing "AA" or "Å" into and see what you get. Both symbols bring up American Airlines, probably because they paid for it, but there sure is a lot of other stuff!

    I must say though, that if I typed "creek" into and got "American Airlines" on the first results page, I'd really start to wonder.

  29. g e

    AA ?

    Perhaps it could be 'Assholes Abound?'. I daren't even type 'Airborne Attack'. Oh. Bugger.

    No doubt they'll try and sue for defamation for that one. Oh. hold on.. I didn't say who it was in relation to... there's loads of AA organisations listed higher up the page.

    Time to dump my RAC membership for an AA one ?

  30. Randy

    Re: again (anonymous)

    I want to sue people who apparently don't have a grasp on the concept of punctuation. Seriously, such utter laziness is disturbing.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To The Cube, re Gecko

    Yes, you're right, Geico really is represented by a lizard, (see ) who, inexplicably, has a British accent in their TV commercials.

  32. Richard Neill


    BTW, what we think of as "The AA" in Britain is known as "the AAA" (American Automobile Association) in the USA.

  33. Aaron


    google can't be held responsible for other companies misusing its services, well not at least if the companies broke laws in googles t&c.

  34. Steve


    American Airlines is no stranger to careful use of branding tricks, of course. It was the developer of the first computerized airline reservation system, Sabre (more familair to web users these days as Travelocity).

    As Sabre became widely used by travel agents, other airlines complained that it always offered Americal Airlines flights as the first choice, even when they were not the cheapest or most direct options. The courts upheld this, and ordered AA/Sabre to present the results in a more neutral form.

    So it was changed to display flights in simple alphabetic order...

  35. Parax

    Trademarks Relate to Industry

    Since google does not ask what industry you are searching it does not violate the trademarks. AA and AA are both trade marks in different industries.

    However, They probably will win against every airline using AA as a google keyword. as this is the same industry and is trading on anothers name. ie direct trademark infringement.

    For example You dont see bottles of pepsi with coke written on them! so why when you ask google for AA should you get Delta's home page. (this is just an example none of this happened!)

  36. Dave

    New Aircraft?

    I thought American Airlines flew large passenger jets, not kites.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    .. here's a solution...

    Hey Google... Unless you desperately need the cash, stop American Airlines from advertising with you for being such a bunch of utter morons! That'll f*** 'em

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet another AAacronym

    My camera uses AA batteries. For convenience, these are somewhat smaller than aircrafts.

  40. N1AK

    Fair case

    Although I also find it hard to pity American Airlines for this. I think the people saying it is pointless need to take a step back and consider that this will be used to set precedant.

    Suppose you run a small company called "Super Tax Calc" or some such, you put years of work in and make a program that's far better than the competition, and as your a small online software company get all your business through search engines (even people who hear word of mouth will google to find your site).

    Some huge competitor decides to take your market by setting up a site comparing his product to yours (using marketing speak) to show how superior their (actually inferior) product is.

    They then buy an add campaign on all the major search engines, so the moment someone goes searching for your product they find theirs at the top of the page.

    This kind of thing WILL happen, and it will generally be the smaller companies that suffer most as they have the lower ad budgets.

  41. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    (Not a) Fair Case

    "Some huge competitor decides to take your market by setting up a site comparing his product to yours (using marketing speak) to show how superior their (actually inferior) product is. They then buy an add campaign on all the major search engines, so the moment someone goes searching for your product they find theirs at the top of the page."

    And how many companies do *you* know that have an official website that disses their product in favour of a competitor?

    A search engine cannot reasonably be expected to know the context in which the end-user's input was intended. (I quite often type in a product name in order to find hostile reviews and competing products. It's called market research and it is something that the web is particularly good for.) On the other hand, the end-user can reasonably be expected to make exactly this discrimination as long as the linked-to websites are not themselves engaged in some kind of passing off offence.

    A victory for AA would infringe on my right to free hearing. (It's the obvious counterpart to free speech, but as far as I know enjoys little or no constitutional protection anywhere in the world.)

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignore the ads?

    I do.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The great interest in Google is that it is smart enough to deduce what are you searching for. If you search for pepsi, it will asume you are searching for pepsi then on sodas.. and this lawsuit pretends to cancel that.

  44. Chris

    I think the lot of you are googlehuggers

    Seriously, if it wasn't Google, you wouldn't think this is acceptable. If this was Microsoft, everyone would be complaining about Billyboy making money on the backs of the oppressed.

    Remember people, this isn't about a competitor putting up a site called American Airlines Sucks and having it indexed and displayed in the regular search results. It's about buying Adwords and having it displayed in the "sponsored links" list.

    No one is saying Alcoholics Anonymous bought adwords so that AA searches displayed links to their site and not American Airlines. American Airlines is claiming people like British/Virgin/Delta bought the term American Airlines and displayed advertisements for their own airlines. It'd be the same if Branson took out a front page advert in a local paper that said Singapore Air (Full add on page 3) and then on page 3 you have a full page ad for Virgin.

    Technically Google is not at fault, but they encourage companies to purchase these misleading adverts. If I'm American Airlines, what incentive do I have to buy an adword for my trademarked names with Google? When people search for American Airlines or AA my webpage already shows up within the first three hits. The only time I would want to buy an Adword is IF SOMEONE ELSE WHO WASN'T ME BID ON IT FIRST. All of this nonsense of a business model relies on Delta buying the Adword, American Airlines saying "oh boy we need to pay more for this adword" and Google inflating their revenue.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    or why dont Google just.....

    remove all entries in the database relating to American Airlines.

    Your search - American Airlines - did not match any documents.

  46. Adrian Crooks

    Is Google suggesting the Adword?

    If Google is suggesting the Adword, then there is something suspicious. If there are just a list of Adwords that you scroll through and pick then no-problem. If Google understands the Adword is contextually linked to AA then they have a problem.

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