back to article Appeals court cracks open Google AdWords v Rosetta Stone case

Google may be liable for direct and contributory trade mark infringement as well as trade mark dilution because of the way it allowed a language learning software company's trademarks to be bought as "keyword advertising" terms by others, a US court has ruled. The US Court of Appeals overturned (47-page/122KB PDF) a district …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Babylonian Captivity of the US Legal System...

    ... will mean that Google will be able to strike a deal with the Courts to buy themselves an Indulgence for a pittance to absolve them of the Eternal Damnation that they duly deserve.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: The Babylonian Captivity of the US Legal System...

      Actually, I'm going the other way with this one. The Rosetta Stone company used the proper name of an object with the same function as its software, and then it complains about others abusing it. I like what they do, the naming was clever, but flawed.

      Also, the "contributary infringement" malarky is an abomination. Its a short-cut because Rosetta-Stone-the-company can't be bothered to prosecute those actually at fault, for purchasing the advert and distributing "counterfeit" software.

  2. Richard Wharram

    Rosetta Stone?

    So they'll be posthumously suing the estate of Champollion too ?

  3. auburnman

    Not to say that the issue doesn't need examining, and Google probably deserve a hefty slap at least for their ad practices, but surely the Rosetta Stone company have done themselves no favours by using a trademark that has at least one other meaning? If I were to buy ads from Google that displayed on Rosetta Stone searches there's at least a chance I could be a legitimate customer working for a museum. How much responsibilty should Google have for their customers behaviour?

    1. DavCrav

      If the advertisements were for museums, no problem. However, they were for translation tools, and there Rosetta Stone has a trademark.

      I do a search for "Windows" and I get ads for Safestyle -- no problem. I do a search for "Microsoft Windows", and if I got hits for Mac resellers who were trying to confuse the person into thinking they were Windows vendors, then that's a problem.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "However, they were for translation tools, and there Rosetta Stone has a trademark."

        But....The Rosetta Stone is a translation tool.

        If the company is called The Rosetta Stone Translation Tool Compant Inc and that whole phrase is waht Google sold, then there is probably a case to answer. But, just the phrase "Rosetta Stone" seems to me to be a valid search term to buy for targetted ads at people interested in translation.

        Maybe the issue is more to do with whether a company can name itself after a word or phrase in common usage and trademark it without further words to clarify/distingish them selves from the possibly many other meanings and uses of the word or phrase.

    2. Franklin

      "If the advertisements were for museums, no problem. However, they were for translation tools, and there Rosetta Stone has a trademark."

      Actually...that's not *entirely* correct.

      Rosetta Stone is big on attacking anyone who uses the word "Rosetta" in a Google ad, or on the Web, in any context whatsoever. I have actually received a cease-and-desist order from Rosetta Stone's lawyers because I administer a Web site that's a Mac troubleshooting forum, and many people on the forum have left posts talking about Rosetta, the PowerPC emulation layer built into some versions of OS X on Intel.

      Rosetta Stone appears to target *anyone* who pops up in a Google search that includes the word "Rosetta," alone or in combination with "Stone," whether the term is used as part of a Google ad keyword or not.

      You can see the cease-and-desist they sent me and the response I sent back to them on my blog:

  4. g e

    Cock Smokers

    I thought the Greeks had the (C) on 'Rosetta Stone' and all translation thingies, esp from Coptic to Demotic (if I remember the Stone's purpose correctly)...

    It's their own stupid fault for picking a generic term for their company name. 'Rosetta Stone' being the name of a thing, like Windows or Apple. You may as well whine because you called your stupid company Ice Cream and you don't like Google using Ice Cream Sandwich.

    Some backroom lawyer just punted the idea of a possible payday to his director to make it look like he was worth his salary.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The Rosetta Stone is a very specific and singular thing.

    So the example is less like "Ice Cream" and more like "That Lyons Maid Strawberry Mivi you had in August 1983 on the way back from the beach".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: However incorrect

      "Rosetta Stone" is specific. It is a chuck of rock with engraved writing or it is a company name.

      A "rosetta stone" is a thing that provides the key for translation/decryption of another thing.

      Does Google sell both terms? If so, the Rosetta Stone company may have a point. If "Rosetta Stone" = "rosetta stone" = "ROSETTA stone" = "rosetta STONE" = "RoSeTtA sToNe", then Google should win.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: However

      What happened to Lyons Maid?

      1. graeme leggett Silver badge

        Re: However


        Though you might still see the brand in the former colonies.

      2. Peter Stone

        Re: However

        In the late1970s, I worked for the third biggest producer of ice cream in the UK. At the time Walls & Loyns Maid had around 80% of the market. Based on this, Walls tried to start a campaign to get people to start referring to ice cream as walls' , in the way that they referred to a vacuum cleaner as a Hoover, or a ballpoint pen as a Biro.

  6. James 100

    Trademark should never have been granted for that

    If I start selling pre-arranged rockeries for gardens under the name Stonehenge, do I get to sue Google any time someone else calls their rockery Stonehenge? That's nuts. They aren't even the first people to use that name *for that class of product*, let alone first to use it at all!

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