A meta tag is a line of code embedded in a web page’s source code. The source code of a web page is a set of instructions that a programmer in a programming language writes.
Source code provides rules and specifications for a computer that can be translated into the machine’s language. A source code is the foundation of programs and websites.
Meta tags contain information that is picked up by a search engine. However, it does not appear in the text of the web page.
A meta tag typically contains the following:
- Copyright information; or
- Brief descriptions of the page.
Sometimes, a website owner will include deceptive information in their meta tags to misdirect internet traffic.
What are Keywords?
Search engines use keywords in order to direct internet users to a specific website or advertisement. Keywords are often referred to as adwords.
Keywords are sold to advertisers by search engine companies. If an internet searcher enters a keyword, such as running, they may be directed to advertisements for running shoes. Keywords are a relatively recent development in the use of the internet.
What is Trademark Infringement?
Trademark infringement is defined as the unauthorized reproduction or use of a trademark, similar to service mark infringement. A trademark may be a logo, brand symbol, or keyword.
A common example of when trademark infringement occurs is when a clothing manufacturer attaches labels to generic items to pass them off as authentic items. Trademark infringement violations are serious and often involve aspects of deceptive trade practices.
Trademark infringement may result in the following legal consequences:
- Monetary reimbursement for losses to the plaintiff;
- An injunction requiring the defendant to stop producing, using, or distributing goods with the trademark; or
- Seizure of goods that use or incorporate the unauthorized trademark.
Trademark infringement may also involve the use of a trademark that looks very similar to a trademark that is officially registered. This is especially true in cases where the copycat trademark is used to deceive consumers into believing the trademark is authentic.
In these cases, the essential factor of proof is whether there is a high likelihood of confusion that a purchaser would believe that the trademark owner made the product. In addition, several factors can be used to determine whether or not trademark infringement has occurred, including:
- How close the products or goods are in nature;
- The strength of the mark, or how visible it is;
- How similar the marks are in appearance;
- The types of marketing and distribution channels used;
- The degree of care that a normal consumer would exercise in selecting the item;
- The defendant’s intentions in selecting the trademark; and
- Evidence that consumers were actually confused over the trademark.
What are the Reasons to Avoid Keyword Advertising Trademark Infringement?
If an individual believes their trademark has been infringed upon by another party who purchased a keyword, they can take legal action. They can sue for trademark infringement in a federal court as the trademark holder.
However, it is important to note that there is not always sufficient evidence to validate an infringement claim. An everyday consumer may use a keyword to find products or services.
In some cases, it may even be impossible to prove that using a keyword by a third party caused confusion, even if that keyword is contained within a trademark.
Many companies do not contest trademark infringement lawsuits that involve keyword advertising because they are often difficult to win. If an individual owns a trademark or trademark, they may wonder how to protect them from infringement.
One way to handle this is to monitor keyword usage by searching for the keywords themselves. The individual should file a complaint if they find another party uses keywords in an advertising campaign that causes confusion.
If an individual is filing a complaint against Bing, Yahoo, Google, or another search engine and the company does not resolve the issue, the individual can directly contact the company using the trademark as a keyword.
Is it Ever Possible to Use Trademarked Material in Keywords?
Generally, purchasing trademarked material for keyword purposes is not against the law. It may, however, result in legal repercussions.
This is mainly due to the potential for abuses, such as false advertising and trademark infringement. There is a thin line between an acceptable practice and a legal violation.
Because keywords are such a new issue, the rules regarding their usage may be somewhat confusing. For example, if an individual searches for the word Nike, it may take them to an ad or a website owned by a company named Nikey.
In the majority of cases, this is legal. However, if the Nikey website were to claim that Nike licenses their products when they do not, that would be a trademark violation.
What About the Use of Trademarks in Meta Tags?
Meta tags and other metadata may also be a legal hazard when a trademark is used. Meta tags are embedded in the HTML code for a web page, as noted above.
Similar to keywords, meta tags can affect the ability of a search engine to locate a website when an individual is using an internet search to browse the web. In some instances, a web designer will embed trademarked words or phrases in the meta tags of a website.
Because a meta tag does not appear directly on the website, it may be difficult to detect. Meta tags operate behind the scenes of a webpage.
Is Putting Trademarked Terms into a Meta Tag Trademark Infringement?
Using a trademarked term in the meta tag of a website may be considered trademark infringement in certain circumstances. This practice is trademark infringement when it deceptively lures users towards a certain website and away from the site that owns the trademark.
When Can I Use a Trademarked Term in My Meta Tags?
Not all uses of another company’s trademark in meta tags are illegal. The fair use doctrine is often used to defend against these trademark infringement lawsuits.
When trademarks are only used to describe a company’s goods or services or the company’s geographic origin, they will be permitted under trademark laws as fair use.
What can be Done to Avoid Keyword Use Trademark Infringement?
It may be possible to avoid liability for keyword use trademark infringement if the website operator properly indexes their data and places a disclaimer on their website. Many major companies and businesses hire web specialists who search the internet for keyword and meta tag abuses.
It is best to completely avoid any ambiguous or confusing uses of trademarked materials on a website. If a trademark lawsuit is successful, the infringing company may be required to pay monetary damages to the trademark holder and cease the infringing conduct.
Should I Contact an Attorney about My Meta Tag Problem?
Determining whether using a trademark in a meta tag is a legal concept that can be confusing and difficult. It may be helpful to consult with a trademark attorney in your area for any issues, questions, or concerns related to your rights and privileges regarding meta tags.
Your trademark attorney can also help you file all the necessary paperwork and represent you in court.