Google and other internet search engines made their fortunes selling keywords searches or at least getting bids for keywords to get your website shown first on the page. Now if the keyword your competitor is paying for is “estate work” for instance, not too much controversy. But what if the keyword that your competing law firm is paying for is your law firm’s name? What is a competing law firm shows up on the web page searches every time your law firm’s name is typed into a search?
Clients and potential clients use the internet often to find your firm’s website to contact you. You may have spent millions of dollars advertising and promoting your Law firm’s name through the years. But now a competitor law firm by paying for clicks of your law firm’s name gets there law firm next to yours on the internet search. Could they be stealing your potential clients?
So the question of who owns your firm’s name on the web gets to be interesting.
Different states have come up with different interpretations of whether using keyword searches of another law firm’s name violates the rules of professional conduct. Texas for instance states that it is okay, for a law firm to use a keyword name of the competing law firm for the purposes on an internet search. North Carolina has stated that it is not. As with many internet issues these days, it also leads to the problem of a firm using law firm’s competitor keyword names in multiple states with different rules.
For a more extensive discussion of this topic, the ABA Journal’s November edition has an article on this entitled; Texas lawyers may use competitors’ names in keyword marketing.