Google Dudes Defeat Omaha Sage in Search Ads Lawsuit

17 December 2004

As most business tycoons will tell you, it's unwise to upset legendary investor Warrant Buffett, known in the money trade as the Sage of Omaha.

But Google's founding duo, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are genetically programmed not to bow to the established order. And so it came to pass that the multimillionaire dudes (or more precisely, their legal representatives) found themselves before federal Judge Leonie Brinkema on Wednesday to answer a case brought by the sage's auto insurance unit Geico.

Geico claims that Google's commercial policy led to the confusion of consumers and the dilution of its trademark. Allegedly at fault was the search engine's AdWords system, which allows rival insurers to display their own ads alongside the Geico listing when surfers search on that name.

Google, however, argued that its practice is consistent with other well-established forms of comparative advertising. Judge Brinkema agreed, and ordered the summary dismissal of Geico's case.

On a second issue, however, she ruled the insurer could seek an injunction against Google to prevent other advertisers from using the Geico name in the text of their ads. Google said it had already actioned requests from trademark owners to block such messages.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff