Internet Law

Appeals Court Asks Top Wis. Court to Decide If Rival Law Firm Can Use Keyword-Driven Web Ads

Habush Habush & Rottier is one of Wisconsin’s top personal injury law firms. So partners weren’t pleased to find out that a small firm was free-riding on its reputation and advertising budget by purchasing keyword advertising on the Internet that put the Cannon & Dunphy law firm at the top of a search engine Web page when users looked for the Habush firm.

They cried foul, contending in a lawsuit that Cannon & Dunphy had infringed on the larger firm’s right of publicity by using the Habush name for advertising purposes. However, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge found the privacy-invading practice commercially reasonable, likening it to pre-Internet proximity advertising in which one firm might seek to get its bus bench, billboard or Yellow Pages pitch right next to a well-known competitor’s display.

Now an appellate court from which the Habush court has sought relief is asking the state’s highest court to weigh in, the Capital Times reports.

To determine how the right of publicity should apply in “this novel context, with wide-ranging impact raises potentially recurring and significant questions of statewide importance whose resolution requires development of the law,” writes the District 1 Court of Appeals in its Wednesday request to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for guidance.

Earlier coverage: “Law Firm Not Liable for Purchasing Competitor’s Name as Keyword to Drive Traffic to Own Website”

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