Can a Google Adwords Campaign Constitute Evidence of Copyright Infringement?

Happy Friday!

By now you have probably heard about the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) big win against file-sharing service, LimeWire.  If not, you can check out excellent coverage of Judge Kimba Wood’s summary judgment decision, issued on May 11, via the New York Times, CNET, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired.


While reading the 59-page opinion, one nugget that caught our eye was that one of the factors that persuaded Judge Wood that LimeWire had “purposefully marketed” to folks known to be copyright infringers, was the company’s selection of terms for Google AdWords campaign such as: “napster mp3”, “napster download”, kazaa morpheus”, and “mp3 free download” .

We know that Google AdWords has been a battle ground in the arena of trademark infringement.  Google has historically allowed companies to purchase keywords for AdWords campaigns even if the trademark to the keyword is owned by a competitor (albeit with a number of restrictions).  This has made Google and its AdWords advertisers frequent targets of trademark suits.   Interestingly, Google recently scored a victory on this front in a suit filed by language software company, Rosetta Stone.  In the suit, Rosetta Stone, alleged that Google was liable for trademark infringement for selling its trademarked keywords to third parties.  The suit was dismissed by Judge Gerald Lee of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virgnia.  [Rosetta Stone Press Release] [CNET]

Could the LimeWire suit be the first time that a party’s selection of terms for an AdWords campaign has been used as evidence of copyright infringement?  If it’s not, we are sure you will set us straight.

Write to us at if you know of an earlier copyright suit in which AdWords keywords were an issue.

#1 Legal Research App

Winner of the prestigious American Association of Law Libraries (New Product) Award, Fastcase for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone is used by more attorneys than any other legal app according to the ABA. Anyone may use the app for free to access Fastcase's comprehensive legal research database on the go.