Court rules you can write about a company without getting its permission and that Google users aren't stupid

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today tossed a former Chinese dissident's trademark suit against a non-profit group that uses the Web to promote a video that is critical of her actions in Beijing in 1989.

In a 2-1 decision, the court said the Long Bow Group, of Brookline, was not trying to confuse people into thinking it was sponsored or in any way affiliated with Jenzabar, a software company founded by Ling Chai and that it has a right to write about Chai and her company, especially since earlier defamation claims were dismissed.

Jenzabar argued that the simple fact that a Google search on "Jenzabar" would include a link to the video's Web site - and a specific page about Jenzabar on that site - was enough to confuse people using the search engine into thinking Jenzabar somehow approved of Long Bow's The Gate of Heavenly Peace video.

The court dismissed that, however, saying Jenzabar failed to provide the first shred of evidence that anybody actually had been confused by a Google link, that Jenzabar and Long Bow are in fundamentally different fields and that, in any case, somebody searching on a company's name might actually be looking for general information about the company, rather than simply searching for its home page.

An Internet user who runs a search even for an extremely strong trademark may be searching for information about the mark's holder rather than for the mark holder's official Web site. A search result leading to a third-party Web site that contains such information thus may not be confusing at all.


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