Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Viacom Sues Google/YouTube

Entertainment giant, Viacom (owner of such names as MTV and Nickelodeon) is suing Google for “massive copyright infringement” over the use of copyrighted video material on Google-owned Viacom is seeking in the region of $1 billion in damages.

In its complaint, Viacom makes some very strong statements, such as
[s]ome entities, rather than taking the lawful path of building businesses that respect intellectual property rights on the Internet, have sought their fortunes by brazenly exploiting the infringing potential of digital technology. YouTube is one such entity.
In the complaint, Viacom also claims that contains over 150,000 video clips of their copyrighed material.

In my opinion, go Viacom!! They are certainly correct in asserting that is infringing the rights of many, many copyright holders and I think this will end up being a landmark case in ensuring that intellectual property rights in digital materials are honored on the Internet. I can't wait to see how the case develops!

You can read more details of Viacom v. YouTube on

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

CAN-SPAM Man in the Can?

For the first time, a jury has just found guilty a defendant to be charged under the anti-spam CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) 2003.

The defendant, Jeffrey B. Goodin, of Azusa, CA, was charged after sending out "phishing" emails to subscribers of AOL in which he deceived recipients into disclosing personal financial information which was then used to make unauthorized purchases.

Mr. Goodin will be sentenced in L.A. on June 11th.

Let's hope this is the first of many such convictions!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Presidential Authority to Intercept Emails, and More

The Washington Post has published an interesting article today on the federal government's power, or otherwise, to intercept emails and gather other pieces of personal information stored on computers. This article, entitled "The Legal Tangles Of Data Collection" is well worth a read (registration at may be required).

E-Discovery and the new Federal Rules

On December 1, 2006, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to cover new developments in the world of discovery of electronically stored information ("e-discovery").

In order to provide a single source of information on the new e-discovery rules, Findlaw has created an Electronic Discovery home page from which you can access all of their e-discovery information, including an ongoing series of articles on the topic and even subscribe to their e-discovery RSS feed.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Monday, 8 January 2007

Trademarked Keywords Don't Lead to Confused Consumers: J.G. Wentworth SSC Ltd v. Settlement Funding LLC

Another court has ruled in favor of the advertiser in a keyword/trademark violation lawsuit.

In the case, J.G. Wentworth SSC Ltd v. Settlement Funding LLC, No. 06-0597 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 4, 2007) (Opinion in PDF format), the court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that the defendant's use of the plaintiff's trademarks as keywords for Google AdWords advertisements and in the keywords meta tags of their web sites did not violate the plaintiff's trademark rights. The court dismissed the case because it believed the defendant's use of the trademarks "create[d] no likelihood of confusion as a matter of law."

However, although the court dismissed the case, in its opinion the court did hold that the "defendant’s participation in Google’s AdWords program and defendant’s incorporation of plaintiff’s marks in its keyword meta tags constitute trademark use under the Lanham Act."

In other words, in contrast to some court rulings, this court ruled that using trademarked terms as AdWords and meta-tag keywords meets the "use in commerce" requirment of a trademark violation despite the fact that the defendant's use of the marks was "invisible to potential consumers" and therefore did not actually directly identify any goods or services.

Interestingly, their very invisibility really underpinned the court's rationale for its finding that there was no likelihood of consumer confusion because the trademarks themselves appeared nowhere in the defendant's advertisements and also did not appear on the defendant's web sites. In addition, the court stated the very nature of search engine results precluded such a finding:

Due to the separate and distinct nature of the links created on any of the search results pages in question, potential consumers have no opportunity to confuse defendant’s services, goods, advertisements, links or websites for those of plaintiff.

The court's opinion (PDF) is (mostly) very readable, even for non-lawyers, and thoroughly recommended.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Search Engine Patents

As mentioned on Danny Sullivan's new Search Engine Land blog, the USPTO has just issued new search-related patents to Google, Yahoo and IBM. There have, indeed, been several search engine related patents issued in 2006. Below are just a few of the more interesting ones, including the new Google and Yahoo patents.

Patents Assigned to Yahoo
Patent 7,146,416 - Web site activity monitoring system with tracking by categories and terms

"The present invention relates to a method and apparatus to provide statistical measurements relating to Web site activity served by a server or a set of servers where the activity relates to particular topics, terms or categories."

7,130,819 - Method and computer readable medium for search scoring

"The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for scoring or ranking results of a search. More specifically, the present invention relates to a scoring approach based on transaction and/or click records."

7,051,023 - Systems and methods for generating concept units from search queries

"The present invention provides systems and methods for enhancing search functionality provided to a user. In certain aspects, the present invention automatically decomposes queries into constituent units that are related to concepts in which a user may be interested."

7,028,027 - Associating documents with classifications and ranking documents based on classification weights

"The present invention relates to search engines, and in particular, to associating documents with classification values, and ranking documents that are associated with classifications based on weights associated with the classification values."

7,007,074 - Targeted advertisements using time-dependent key search terms

"An improved advertisement generation system is herein described that takes into account a previous search term for conducting a search, typically with a search engine, and the time at which the search was conducted, when selecting an advertisement to present to a potential consumer."

6,990,628 - Method and apparatus for measuring similarity among electronic documents

"[T]he present invention [provides] a method and system that measures similarity of documents in a hypertext document system, by combining multiple types of indications of similarity of the documents."

Patents Assigned to Google

7,146,358 - Systems and methods for using anchor text as parallel corpora for cross-language information retrieval

"Systems and methods consistent with the present invention [provide] mechanisms for translating search queries that exploit anchor text in one language that refer to documents in another language to produce good quality, less noisy query translations."

7,136,875 - Serving advertisements based on content

"The present invention allows advertisers to put targeted ads on any page on the web (or some other document of any media type). The present invention may do so by (i) obtaining content that includes available spots for ads, (ii) determining ads relevant to content, and/or (iii) combining content with ads determined to be relevant to the content."

7,136,854 - Methods and apparatus for providing search results in response to an ambiguous search query

"Methods and apparatus consistent with the invention allow a user to submit an ambiguous search query and to receive relevant search results."

7,096,214 - System and method for supporting editorial opinion in the ranking of search results

"A system and method, consistent with the present invention [provides] a mechanism that enhances the ranking of search results by integrating editorial opinion."

7,031,961 - System and method for searching and recommending objects from a categorically organized information repository

"The invention relates to the field of information searching and browsing, and more particularly to a system and method for enhancing searches and recommending documents in a collection through the use of bookmarks shared among a community of users."

7,027,987 - Voice interface for a search engine

"[T]he present invention provid[es] a voice interface for search engines that is capable of returning highly relevant results."

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, 1 December 2006

Google Donating to Stanford CIS

According to an article in the San Jose Business Journal, Google has pledged to donate $2 million to the Center for Internet & Society at Stanford Law School.

The quotes in the article imply that this money will be used for issues related to intellectual property and copyright in particular. Given that Google seems to be having quite a few issues regarding copyright and trademarks at the moment, (e.g. the Google News copyright decision in Belgium, reports that that Google has put aside a large pot of money to cover copyright issues arising from its acquisition of YouTube, issues arising from its indexing of print publications, being sued in France over a video download/copyright infringement, etc.) this seems very appropriate.

Technorati Tags: ,