South Florida Hospital News
Wednesday August 5, 2020
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April 2014 - Volume 10 - Issue 10
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The Power and Protection of Ad Words

Recent Case Generated Important Decision Regarding Use of Online Marketing
 
When physicians decide to go their separate ways, they often face contentious issues that land them in court. I recently litigated a case between two physicians that included the use of Google Ad words. Users can bid on these search terms that will generate sponsored links to their websites. This use of “Ad words” presents issues that impact federal trademark laws.
 
This case in particular presents important issues that should be considered when it comes to protecting the name of your own practice and its marketing efforts. Believe it or not, doctors are not automatically permitted to stop others from using their names to advertise their services. At a minimum, doctors must prove that their names have become so well recognized that they deserve to be protected as trademarks.
 
My client’s former partner attempted to exploit their former association by designating my client's name as an “Ad Word” so that when patients searched for my client in Google, they instead found a link to his former partner's website. The former partner also registered six variations of my client's name as a domain name so that when patients typed in, for example, "drsmith.com," they were automatically redirected to the former partner's website. Luckily, my client had a long history of treating patients in South Florida and elsewhere and was so well-known in the medical community that the Court determined that he owned trademark rights to his name. He was therefore able to stop his former partner from using his name to market the former partner's medical practice.
 
In today's online world, it is important to understand your rights to protect your name and reputation and the goodwill that they represent. Significant damage can occur if other, less-qualified doctors are able to use your name to drive patients to their medical practices. Doctors, like other "brand owners," need to be vigilante and protective of their names and reputations.
 
Matt Nelles, Partner, Broad and Cassel, Fort Lauderdale, is Board Certified in Intellectual Property by the Florida Bar and is a registered patent attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He can be reached at mnelles@broadandcassel.com or (954) 764-7060.
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