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Rosetta Stone rocks Google with trademark lawsuit

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Rosetta Stone, maker of language-learning software, is joining a growing crowd of companies suing Google for letting third-parties buy permission to use other people's trademarks on AdWords.

Rosetta filed the lawsuit today in US District Court in Virginia, where the company is headquartered. The complaint fingers Google's recent change to its AdWords trademark policy that lets advertisers buy the right to trademarks in text ads even if they don't have approval from the actual trademark owner to use them.

The complaint alleges that the practice aids third parties in "hijacking" consumers and interferes with Rosetta's sales and business.

"Google's search engine is helping third parties mislead consumers and misappropriate Rosetta Stone trademarks by using them as 'keyword' triggers for paid advertisements and by using them within the text or title of paid advertisements," Michael Wu, Rosetta's general counsel said in a statement.

The company says it owns US-registered rights to terms such as "global traveler," "language library," "dynamic immersion," "adaptive recall," and "the fastest way to learn a language guaranteed." It also complains Google pawns terms that are "confusingly similar" to the Rosetta trademarks to third-parties and pirates on AdWords.

"In fact, many of Google's 'Sponsored Links' are expressly designed to draw consumers away from Rosetta Stone websites," the filing states.

Rosetta seeks injunctive relief to stop Google from selling its trademarks on AdWords, plus unspecified damages - including an amount sufficient to "conduct a corrective advertising campaign to dispel the effects of Google's wrongful conduct and confusing and misleading advertising."

Many other companies have filed suit against Google for the same policy, including American Airlines and Geico.

"It's completely normal for a supermarket to stock different brands of cereal on the same shelf or for a magazine to run Ford ads opposite of an article about Toyota, so it doesn't make sense to limit competition online by restricting the number of choices available to users," Google said in a previous statement about the AdWord controversy. ®

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