Website owner fights tooth and claw to protect pet trademark

Internet search engines Kanoodle, Google and Overture have been accused of trademark infringement and unfair competition in relation to their paid placement or 'pay for clicks' listings practices, which allow website owners to pay for their sites to be listed near the top of search results when certain key words are entered.

The complaint was filed by Robert Novak, owner of 'petswarehouse.com', who alleges that his trademark PETS WAREHOUSE and related terms have been sold as keywords to his competitors, including 'doctordog.com' and 'theferretstore.com'. Novak claims these tactics "bait and switch" his customers and describes in his complaint how:

"In a typical scenario, a customer looking for Pets Warehouse [PW] products logs onto Kanoodle, Google.com or Overture and enters 'Pets Warehouse' as his search term. [The search engine] then retrieves and displays the websites of several competitors of PW. The consumer, assuming he has found the legitimate PW site, then clicks on one of the linked websites, only to arrive at a competitor's site. The consumer may not even realize that he is not at the PW website and orders a different product."

Novak says that his business has been damaged because the search engines allow competitors to use his trademark to increase their ranking.

For further discussion of paid placement practices, see Search engines criticized for paid listings.

Heather Rowe, Lovells, London

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