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SEO Held Liable, Fined In Counterfeiting Case
Jury Awards Damages Against Web Designer/SEO/Host on Contributory Trademark Infringement Theory--Roger Cleveland v. Prince By Eric Goldman
Roger Cleveland Golf Co. v. Prince, 2:09-cv-02119-MBS (D.S.C. jury verdict March 10, 2011 and judgment March 14, 2011). See also the jury instructions.
web design/SEO/host firm working with online retailer of counterfeit goods could be liable for contributory trademark infringement. The ruling didn't make any sense substantively, but the court clearly didn't appreciate the defense counsel's 1.5 page citationless summary judgment brief. The court separately ruled that the website did engage in counterfeiting--thus removing that issue from the jury's consideration--leaving two principal questions for the jury: (1) was the designer/SEO/host secondarily liable, and (2) damages.

In the Sunday edition of the New York Times' business section 2/19/2011 was an investigatory piece on JCPenney's SEO campaign by David Segal. The article, entitled “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search,”

JCPenney was beating everyone, ranking in the top position for every term. What the article uncovers is that JCPenney's organic campaign is built on a landscape of 2,015 links to unrelated websites. Terms like “evening dresses,” “casual dresses,” and “cocktail dresses” are linked to online gambling, banking and, most comically, U.S. clergymen sites.

The linking scheme of this scale went un-reacted upon by Google for so long then once in the NYT they sent Matt Cutts, who runs Google's Webspam team, to address the JCPenney situation with the NYTimes by finally demoting their organic listings.

Claire Cain Miller wrote in the technology section of the New York Times, which probes at AOL's recent acquisition of the news site Huffington Post, asking if it isn't a ploy to drive traffic with low quality journalism. Miller argues that HuffPo leverages SEO tactics to boost its worth to increase readership and display ad revenue. Or what about the “Google: Bing is copying our results” scandal at the beginning of the month? Who outside of search marketers had ever heard of Danny Sullivan before his scandalous article blew up across the blogosphere and even made it into The Colbert Report?

Microsoft has announced a significant change to its paid search editorial policy, which will enable marketers to bid on trademark terms across Bing and Yahoo!. The new policy permits marketers to bid on their competitors' brand terms, however they are still not allowed to include trademark terms in their ad copy. The change will come into effect on March 3, 2011.

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