Google not liable for misleading auto-generated search terms

A US court has ruled that automatically-generated search terms that are misleading do not constitute a common-law misappropriation or an invasion of privacy.

Dissatisfied with the results of internet searches for her name, Beverly Stayart launched a legal campaign against internet search engines. In her third lawsuit, she contended that Google was in violation of Wisconsin misappropriation laws because a search for “bev stayart” may lead to a search for “bev stayart levitra,” which in turn may lead to websites advertising drugs to treat male erectile dysfunction.

The district court found she had failed to state a plausible claim for relief. The Seventh Circuit dismissed her appeal because the use she alleged fell within two exceptions: public interest and incidental use.

First, Stayart had made the challenged search phrase “bev stayart levitra” a matter of public interest by suing Yahoo! over it in 2010 – and as a matter of public interest, that phrase cannot serve as the basis of a misappropriation suit.

Secondly, Stayart had not pleaded any facts showing a substantial connection between Google’s use of her name and its efforts to generate advertising revenues, triggering the incidental-use exception to Wisconsin’s misappropriation laws.


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