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PI Firm Sues Competitor for Hijacking Name in Online Searches

Posted Nov 19, 2009 10:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Wisconsin’s largest personal injury law firm has taken a different legal tack in an effort to get a competitor to stop hijacking its name in Google searches.

Habush, Habush & Rottier has sued competitor Cannon & Dunphy for paying Google and other search engines to direct people who search for Habush to the Cannon website, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The suit claims Cannon violated Habush’s privacy rights under Wisconsin state law.

Past suits over purloined search terms have named Google as the defendant, and usually claim violation of trademark rather than privacy laws, according to the story.

The suit says consumers could be confused when their search for the Habush law firm turns up a competitor. "Defendants' obtaining and using the keywords 'Habush' and 'Rottier' is an intentional and illegal effort to trade on the hard-earned names, personal reputations and good will" of the plaintiffs, the suit claims.

Foley & Lardner is representing Habush, Habush & Rottier and name partners Robert Habush and Daniel Rottier.

Cannon & Dunphy name partner Patrick Dunphy told the Journal Sentinel that Internet searchers can still find the Habush firm. "I don't see what the problem is," he said. "If you Google Habush, their firm comes up. If you Google my firm, we come up—and so do other firms. I'm not suing anybody."

Dunphy said he thought a marketer made arrangements with search engines, and he never requested that Habush and Rottier keywords bring up his firm in search results. Dunphy said he believes the suit is without merit.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Google ‘Adwords’ Don’t Violate Trademark Law, Adviser Tells EU Court”

ABAJournal.com: "PI Attorneys Sue Google Over ‘Adwords’ Sale of Law Firm Name to Competitor"

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