Overture, Geico settle trademark dispute

Agreement ends the two companies' battle over commercial use of trademarked terms in search results. Google suit to proceed.

Overture Services has settled a lawsuit brought by insurance giant Geico, ending a battle in an ongoing war over the commercial use of trademarked terms in Web search results.

Yahoo subsidiary Overture confirmed on Wednesday that it settled out of court with Geico on Friday, but a company representative would not elaborate. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

"Geico and Overture have agreed to a settlement, and their claims against each other in the litigation have been dismissed," Geico spokeswoman Janice Minshall wrote in an e-mail.

Geico had filed suit in May against Overture Services and Google, charging the two commercial search giants with violating its trademarks when selling advertisements linked to its name in search results.

Google's defense of its advertising practices is still ongoing; and to date, its motions for dismissal have largely failed. On Nov. 19, Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the suit was filed, denied Google's motion for summary judgment, according to court documents. The ruling allows the case to proceed to trial.

In late August, the judge also denied Google and Overture's motion to dismiss six charges brought by Geico, which claimed that use of its name to trigger search-related ads was trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of its marks under the Lanham Act. At the time, the judge granted their motions to dismiss claims of tortious interference and statutory business conspiracy.

The issue is critical to Google and Overture because many commercial searches are driven by trademarked brand names such as Nike or Geico. A negative ruling could ultimately pinch revenues.

Illustrating the importance of trademarks, Google asked a court last year to rule on whether its keyword-advertising policy is legal. The company still faces a suit brought by American Blind and Wallpaper Factory.

Both Google and Overture have argued that the use of trademarks in search-related ads is fair, though their policies vary. Previously, Google had blocked trademarked terms for requests within reason, but in the last year, it ceased that kind of filtering. Overture has said it will honor trademark holders' requests to filter their marks.

A search at Overture.com on Wednesday showed several sponsored search results for companies other than Geico, whose ad appeared eighth on the list of results.

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