Utah’s Trademark Bill; Opposed by Google
On March 19th Utah’s own Governor Jon Hunstman signed the “Trademark Protection Act” which won by a unanimous vote. With little fanfare, this bill drew almost no attention, that is until Google and other major corporations started to notice. The new law would allow companies to create electronic trademarks to prevent competitors from using those marks. While this law sounds innocent, the implications are far reaching and affect most companies doing business on the internet, most of all those in search engine marketing.
This is nothing for Utah legislators, who for years have attempted to initiate tighter control on the internet to prevent spyware and pornography. Utah’s lawmakers have referred to the internet as the “Wild West” unregulated and full of internet bandits. Utah has long been known as a moral leader in law legislation with their alcohol and drug laws, but this law has created a windstorm, which may prove to be devastating. Some Utah Lawmakers are over stepping their boundaries in trying to control interstate commerce, which is strictly prohibited in the U.S constitution. Eric Goldman of University School of Law in Santa Clara CA says, “We’ve got some scientists in the Utah Legislature cooking up some really bad experiments”.
Since the bills creation Google Inc has announced publicly its plans to challenge the ruling in court on the basis that the law violates interstate commerce and free speech. In an e-mail to The Salt Lake Tribune, Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said “This law hurts consumer, violates free speech, and is inconsistent with both established U.S trademark law and our capitalist system”. This should come as no surprise to Utah Lawmakers though, Utah’s own General Counsel as well as Unspam Technologies CEO Matthew Prince both advised lawmakers of the implications of the bill. Prince stated that “I warned them during the session that this would make Google mad,”.
Some wonder if this bill was a backdoor maneuver crafted by the Draper, Utah company 1-800 Contacts which helped create anti-spyware bills in the past. A lobbyist for 1-800-Conacts Jay Magure supports the bill but questions if it will survive court. “Historically it’s very hard to tailor a state law that just protects the interest of state and doesn’t go beyond the borders,” Jay Magure. The Trademark Protection Act was crafted by Unspam Technologies, a company that also helped craft the child-protection registry; a law which would require sellers of adult material to submit their e-mail lists to Unspam inorder to remove minors from the list.
Whether or not this bill survives, this showcases the effect a single law can have on an entire industry. The search engine optimization industry is greatly affected but keyword regulation. Internet marketing firms everywhere would be affected, not just Goliaths like Google and Microsoft.