Of Interest to Webmasters and Website Owner/Operators: “Search Engines Ignore Keyword Meta Tags”, court says.
by Ron Bartels, PhD
The issues here are: Trademark Justice, Keyword Justice and Meta Tag Justice
A Federal District Court in Milwaukee made an interesting Trademark decision involving the issue of Trademarked Terms or Trademarked Words being used as a keyword Meta tag. Judge Rudolph T. Randa wrote that search engines these days seldom use Meta tags when deciding which pages and in which order the search results will be returned and displayed.
Search engines primarily determine relevance based on other factors, such as whether or not particular sites are included in the human-edited directory known as the Open Directory Project. The project is called DMOZ.
The case, decided in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN, Case No. 06-C-843, STANDARD PROCESS, INC. v DR. SCOTT J. BANKS, stemmed from a dispute between dietary supplement company Standard Process and Scott J. Banks, a chiropractor and nutritional counselor sold Standard Process products online. Banks started selling Standard Process supplements nine years prior, but in 2004 the company told Banks he was no longer authorized to do so. Dr. Banks continued to sell the trademarked products online, which is why Standard Process decided to sue. Standard Process alleged, among other charges, that Banks violated Standard Process’s trademark by using the company’s name in keyword Meta tags. In addition to rejecting that charge, the federal court found Banks is legally entitled to sell the products, provided that he does not indicate on his Website that he is an “authorized” seller.
This interesting aspect of this decision is that it markedly stands in complete contrast to a ruling earlier this month, in a similar Trademark Issue case, by a federal appellate court in the 11th Circuit. That court decided that Axiom Worldwide used a rival’s trademarks in commerce by incorporating them in Meta tags. The appellate court found that the tags caused Axiom to appear in the No.2 spot in Google’s organic results when users conducted searches on the trademarked terms. The 11th Circuit did not specify which type of Meta tags Axiom allegedly used. The court did not cite any particular evidence, which proved that the tags caused Google to display Axiom high in the organic results.
The injustice in the appellate court decision is that the decision appears whimsical at best. Justices need to be specific in writing their decisions. Judge Randa was very specific. His opinion quoted an article by Santa Clara University law professor, Eric Goldman, for the proposition that search engines “progressively realized that keyword Meta tags were a poor indicator of relevancy.” This was noteworthy comment by the judiciary that put another feather in the cap of Santa Clara University Law School.
JusticeTimes.com would consider specific comments from students from the Santa Clara University Law School.
The question we pose is this. How do we the people want our judiciary to disclose and publish their decision? Do we want them vague or helpfully specific? Your comments are wanted.