Recently, the makers of the FIREBALL brand whiskey filed a lawsuit against rival Jack Daniels for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices under Kentucky law. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff is the owner of trademark registrations of the term FIREBALL for use in connection with liquor related products. The Complaint also alleges that Defendant used the term FIREBALL in advertisements using the Google ADWORDS system and purchased keywords of the term FIREBALL so that consumers searching for the FIREBALL brand whiskey would instead view advertisements for the Defendant’s TENNESSEE FIRE brand whiskey. The Complaint further alleges that the parties are rivals in the whiskey industry and that the Defendant’s conduct was done willfully and in an effort to gain a competitive advantage.
The unauthorized use of a competitor’s trademark in Google ADWORDS, as a search engine keyword, or in metatags has become a common practice among competitors. This type of unauthorized conduct can be actionable as trademark infringement and/or unfair competition. In addition, statements made about a competitor online may be actionable if they rise to the level of a misrepresentation or create a reasonable likelihood that consumers may be confused as to the source, identity or sponsorship of the advertiser’s product.
Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) has become a big part of business advertising and marketing campaigns. As a result, a business should always be looking out for competitors attempting to use its trademark in an unauthorized manner or to effect SEO. Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding the information in this article.
Daniel Devine, Esq.
Santucci Priore, P.L.
 See, Sazerac Brands, LLC, et. al. v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc., Case No. 3-15-cv-849-DJH (W.D. Ken. November 23, 2015).
 See, N. American Medical Corp. v. Axiom Worldwide, Inc., 522 F.3d 1211, 1221-1224 & n.10 (11th Cir. 2008).