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Friday, January 23, 2009
by Thomas O'Toole
No news here, but I find fascinating, in 2009, trademark attorneys' and courts' abiding interest in meta tags. The following passage comes from China International Travel Services Inc. v. China & Asia Travel Services Inc., No. 08-1293 (N.D. Cal., Dec. 18, 2008), a trademark case in which the court enjoined the defendant from:
using, seeking to register, or otherwise appropriating the trademarks, service marks, or trade names CITS, USA CITS, CITS USA, CHINA INTL TRAVEL SERVICES (USA), CHINA INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL SERVICES (USA), or the CITS GLOBE DESIGN (collectively the "CITS USA Name and Marks"), any name or mark containing the CITS USA Name and Marks, or any name or mark that is a colorable imitation or confusingly similar to the CITS USA Name and Marks ("Prohibited Names"), in any manner likely to cause confusion with the CITS USA Name and Marks, including but not limited to use as or as part of an e-mail address, domain name, URL, trademark, corporate name, business name, trade name, metatag, or other identifier ... (emphasis mine).
Why include meta tags here? Maybe it is just a matter of thoroughness. No one knows for certain the extent to which search engine algorithms rely on meta tags. But most experts believe the answer is "not at all," or nearly so. A study published by leading search engine optimization experts revealed a widespread belief that keywords in meta tags have no effect whatsoever on search engine behavior. Are there studies to the contrary? I'm not aware of any. And of course Web users have no idea which meta tags are coded into the site. It is likewise fascinating that, given this same evidence, Web sites continue to put the competition's trademarks in their keyword meta tags. Here again, maybe it is just a matter of thoroughness.
Curious also that the trademark owner's attorney didn't enumerate search engine keywords among the forbidden uses of the mark. Unlike meta tags, search engine keywords have a direct impact on what a Web user sees.
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