Yesterday Dozier Internet Law, experts in litigation related to intellectual property and protection of reputations online , published a list of common issues in the battle over using a competitor’s name to get traffic to your website.
This area of law is certainly contentious. I am sure there are lawyers who would argue with the advice given in this article by Dozier, but that does nothing to diminish what I see as the main point of their article: If you’re using a competitor’s name to bring traffic to your site, be careful. There are a ton of pitfalls, and you could quickly find yourself in court.
Here’s a summary of the main issues raised. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV, so go to Dozier’s blog for more detail.
- Product reviews – Be careful when you create a “product review” site that only gives negative reviews of the competitor, and positive reviews for you.
- Comparative advertising – Even if you’ve made true statements about the competitor you’re comparing, it can still be troublesome because there can be a claim that you used that competitor’s name inordinately for SEO purposes.
- Sucks sites – There are many believers that a site with a competitor’s name and the word “sucks” in the title is legal. Dozier says it’s not.
- First sale doctrine – Once I buy a product, I can sell it however I want. But if I buy one of a competitor’s product, jack up the price, and pretend to be selling it just to get traffic on the competitor’s name, this is a problem.
- Directories – It’s illegal for a directory to post your information strictly for capturing traffic from customers looking for you, and then selling that customer information to a competitor.
- Keyword stuffing, also known as spamdexing – Using your competitor’s name over and over in a URL, in the meta data, associated with images, or in invisible colors can push you higher in search results. This is not okay.
Dozier promises to talk more about these issues, so be sure to check his site for those updates.