Pay-for-play search engines face first lawsuit

The company that makes Body Solutions, a line of diet products, has filed suit against AltaVista, Kanoodle, and Overture Services, claiming that these pay-for-play search engines are involved in activities amounting to trademark infringement.

The firm, Mark Nutritionals, filed suit in early February in the US District Court in San Antonio, Texas seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages from each search engine for "wilful attempt to mislead users".

Pay-or-play search engines arrange listings based on how much a company pays to have its name on the list. In this case, when a user enters the search terms 'body solutions' in the search bar, the results will bring up the company's competitors who have paid to be listed with the search engine.

Mark Nutritionals claims that the search engines are involved in an illegal 'bait-and-switch' scheme. The suit alleges that because the search engines are selling pay-for-play listings to Body Solutions' competitors, the search engines knowingly allow violations of Mark Nutritionals' trademark.

Douglas Wood and Linda Goldstein, Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood LLP, New York

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