Trademark Case Raises Questions On Google’s Use of Meta Tags

Broadband Updates, Broadband's Impact, Trademarks December 4th, 2009

, BroadbandBreakfast.com

A case brought by Jenzabar, a company that was founded by a student leader at Tiananmen Square that makes software for institutions of higher education, against the documentary film-makers Long Bow Group, has raised the issue of whether Google uses keyword meta tags in its search rankings.

Jenzabar is claiming trademark infringement because the company’s name is in the meta tags for a page about the later life of Ling Chai, who founded Jenzabar but was a leading character in a Long Bow documentary, according to the non-profit group Public Citizen. The case resulted in Jenzaber bringing in expert testimony from Frank Farance to contradict Google’s announcement that it does not use keyword tags in computing search ranking.

“Jenzabar claims that Long Bow, which makes award-winning documentary films about China, can not use Jenzabar’s name as part of the meta tags on pages about Jenzabar. That assertion, however, is preposterous, said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney who is defending Long Bow, along with local counsel T. Christopher Donnelly and Adam B. Ziegler of the Boston law firm Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP,” according to Public Citizen.

“The filmmakers’ use of Jenzabar’s name as a keyword meta tag on their informational web pages about Jenzabar is far beyond the concern of trademark law,” Levy said. “Even if the meta tags affected Google’s search rankings, the First Amendment protects the right to make the truthful statement that a particular Web page contains information about Jenzabar,” Public Citizen argues on behalf of Long Bow.

Google wrote in a September 21 blog post that the company does not use keywords meta tag in its web search ranking. “Our web search (the well-known search at Google.com that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keyword metatags completely,” said Matt Cutts, who is part of the search quality team at Google. “Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag,” according to the company. Google said the company does sometimes use description meta tags as the text for its search result snippets.

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