The Initial Interest Confusion Theory: The Beginning Of Liability For Search Engine Companies

Search engine and internet advertisers have found technological systems to provide ‘better location’ and visibility for their patrons’ advertisements (ads). One of these inventions is Meta tags. In simple terms, Meta tags are HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) codes incorporated to an advertisement or webpage that depict that website content and will increase visibility for those searching the web. There are two types of Meta tags, ‘description’ and ‘keyword’ Meta tags. The main objective in using description Meta tags is to describe the website content. At least at its inception, keyword Meta tags intended to use common words or sentences found in a specific website to trigger visibility of the Ads. No doubt Meta tags are an excellent tool for search engine patrons and for Internet surfers. It is an excellent marketing strategy for search engine patrons and time-efficiency instrument for Internet users. Yet, search engine companies turned intense in helping their patrons. They embarked on the sensitive journey of using trademarked terms in Meta tags. But, is this use legal? May search engines be liable for the use of trademarked terms in keyword Meta tags? May this violate the trademark laws and unfair competition rules? The answer to these and other related questions follow.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

What are the facts of Brookfield case?
What was the legal issue in this case?
What is the Initial Interest Confusion Theory and is it Actionable under the U.S. Lanham Act?


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