This post is the third in a series that will continue over the next couple weeks in which I’ll be taking a look at how technology is impacting the law and the way legal professionals practice.
I’ve been writing about how technological improvements have made the practice of law easier with everything from virtual continuing legal education to easier access to case law from Google. But sometimes moving our old school profession into the technological era makes things more difficult, instead of easier.
Take advertising, for example. For the longest time, any form of attorney advertising was forbidden. Since then, things have changed, and attorneys now advertise in the Yellow Pages, on television, and online. But in a fiercely competitive online marketplace, what are the rules?
For instance, is it ok to buy keywords if those words happen to be the names of your competitors’ firm? It seems a little less than ethical, but can it be done? For now, the answer seems to be yes. In fact, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, one Wisconsin firm has already done it, and has come under fire for doing so.
Cannon & Dunphy, a personal injury firm based in Brookfield has paid for the keywords “Habush” and “Rottier,” which just happen to be the names found in Habush, Habush & Rottier, the largest and most well-known personal injury firm in Wisconsin. So naturally, Habush, Habush & Rottier sued. According to the Journal Sentinal, this is the first suit of its kind:
“Several companies have sued Google over letting competitors buy keywords associated with the objecting company, but those actions are usually brought under trademark laws.
But Habush and Rottier contend that Cannon & Dunphy is violating Wisconsin’s right to privacy law by using the names of Habush and Rottier for advertising purposes without their permission.”
Essentially, having paid ads with those keywords would put Cannon & Dunphy’s link above the organic search results that would lead to Habush, Habush & Rottiers’ website. Cannon & Dunphy have said that they hired a marketing company who might have paid for those keywords, but that the firm had not specifically asked them to. They also believe that the suit is without merit, and will ask to have it dismissed.
As of yet, I haven’t seen any new news on how this is proceeding, but it apparent when you type Habush or Rottier into Google that Cannon & Dunphy has halted their use of those words as keywords–in fact there are no paid ads at the top of the search page.