Tagged American Airlines

Google being sued for selling trademarked AdWordsâ„¢

The Motley Fool is reporting that Google is being sued by American Airlines for selling sponsored ads targeted at the keyword ‘American Airlines,’ a trademark of the airline. Here’s an excerpt from the full article, located on Fool.com:

To understand the situation a little better, fire up Google and punch in “American Airlines.” Google’s AdWords program serves up sponsored results along with the organic search-engine results. Online advertising accounts for as much as 99% of Big G’s revenues — it’s clearly a big part of the Google model.

Your mileage may vary, but when I searched this morning for “American Airlines” (in quotes, but it works just as well without them), I saw several third-party ads. The most prominent ad, at the top of the page, is for AMR’s own AA.com website. However, the column on the right features rival airlines and portals that promise discounted airfares.

The ads themselves don’t feature the American Airlines brand. However, the ads wouldn’t be on the page if the sponsors hadn’t bid on the trademarked term. To be sure, I logged into AdWords and saw that I could bid on the term “American Airlines” for as little as $0.04 per click. (Minimum bids vary depending on ad quality, even within the same keywords.)

Is this right? Is this wrong? The only thing for sure is that a lot of money is weighing on the answer.

What will make this one really juicy for the lawyers is that, with most searches on the web being case-insensitive (as far as I can tell–if someone knows differently, please feel free to comment), the trademarked term ‘American Airlines’ and the perfectly reasonable search for ‘american airlines,’ aka airlines offering service in america, are one and the same in a search engine’s mind.

American Airlines

Obviously, the larger issue is whether or not things like ‘Disneyland’ can be bought as a search term when trademarked by a company, but it’s a little more interesting in the case of American, whose decades-old choice of a name designed to build brand recognition might actually confound an already complicated issue even more.

Another interesting point that the article makes is that, if trademarks are ruled off-limits in advertising media like Google, it will also allow the trademark holder to withhold advertising funds from Google for those particular terms, as there would be little reason to advertise for a search term when no competitor could:

It is easy to see that Google could lose a lot of money if it caves in on these cases. If no one else is allowed to bid on “American Airlines” and other AMR trademarks, AMR has no reason to bid on it, either. It is the top organic search-engine result.

Of course, on a more personal level, I will be interested to see how this case is resolved, and what effect, if any, it will have on the blogosphere, many of whom rely heavily on Google AdSenseâ„¢ for their blog’s revenue stream.

adsense, adwords, google, american airlines, american, airlines, lawsuit, trademark, trade mark

Southwest Airlines: A symbol of freedom from red tape, unnecessary fees, and overpriced snack food

Southwest: You are now free from airline stupidity
Southwest jet

In the cut-throat world of commercial airline travel, the concept of ‘reward miles’ has come to be used as a powerful tool for keeping frequent travelers coming back to the same airline, time and time again. More recently, as discount airlines entered the fray, we saw the beginnnings of a new variant on the classic ‘miles’ theme: rewards points. Airlines such as AirTran and Southwest started giving away coupons or points based on each one-way flight a customer took, regardless of the length of the flight or how many stopovers it entailed. Once you accumlate a set number of points through one of these programs, you’re entitled to a free roundtrip flight, usually anywhere in the continental U.S.
Southwest is one of the discount airlines offering such a program. With Southwest’s Rapid Rewards, you earn one point for each one-way flight (two for a roundtrip, for the math-impaired). After you’ve accumulated 16 points (that’s 8 round trips), you earn a certificate good for roundtrip air travel anywhere in the U.S.
Now, up ’til now, it sounds like a pretty generic program. And that’s what I figured it would be when I signed up and started collecting points. But recently, I hit the magical 16-point mark, and decided to cash in my certificate for a flight from Manchester to Philly and back. I decided I wanted to go about 3 weeks in the future, and first off, I checked to see what the flight would cost if I paid cash for it–$380. In other words, only the expensive seats were left (Southwest uses a system with about 5 price tiers–this flight normally costs between $85 and $450 RT). Nevertheless, I had no problem booking rewards travel through the website, without ever having to pick up the phone or wrestle with complicated blackout dates.
I admit I was pretty impressed with how smoothly the booking went, but it’s what happened next that I couldn’t believe. I was on vacation in Orlando, FL, and decided I’d like to leave a little early. I called up Southwest on a Tuesday night, explained that I’d already booked a trip from Manchester-Philly, but that I’d like to change it to a one-way from Orlando back to Manchester. When the customer service rep. on the other end asked me when I wanted to fly, and I said ‘tomorrow,’ I figured she’d immediately start laughing at me, or at least announce there’d be a huge fee for changing my reservation. Instead, she put me on a flight the next evening, and told me there was no charge for the change. I’ll repeat that.

Southwest doesn’t charge a fee to change a Rapid Rewards reservation, even at the last minute.

The story gets better. The next morning it turned out I didn’t need the flight back, so I sheepishly called Southwest back and told them I needed to cancel the one-way from Orlando to Manchester, and I’d like to re-book the original flight to Philly. Without even a hesitation, the agent put me back on the same flights I had been on just two days before, and politely wished me a good day. Once again, no fee, no admonition from the person on the other end of the phone, and no whining about blackout dates.

The American Airlines Snack Box, or, What the Heck is a Lorna Doone?

In this day and age, it seems like most airlines believe that cutting their prices and services will help them attract customers while keeping them in the black. On the flight I ended up taking back from Florida, on American Airlines, I was told that I needed to pay $4 for a snack-pack consisting of crackers and peanuts.

Southwest Peanuts: Dry and boring like the Snack Pack, but priced to move

It wasn’t so much that I was being asked to pay for food (I understand that not everyone eats the free food, so it’s a huge waste for the airline, so several have begun offering items such as Bennigan’s sandwiches on an a la carte menu), but rather that my only option was to buy the same junk I used to get for free.
When I expressed surprise to the flight attendant, she said, “How long has it been since you’ve flown…oh wait, you were on Southwest, right?”

Damn straight.

American Airlines, Southwest, airline, peanuts, Rapid Rewards, Snack Pack, reservation, reward miles, miles, Manchester, airport, Philadelphia, Philly, change reservation, fees, fee, Southwest website, Southwest airlines