RealTime IT News

Google Slaps Booble

Search engine giant Google has demanded that newly launched adult search site Booble take down its Web site, a Booble spokesman said Thursday.

Booble officials claim its site is a parody, while Google disputes this assertion.

Twenty-four hours after Booble launched on Jan. 20, the Google Trademark Enforcement Team e-mailed the company asking it to take down its site, a Booble spokesman said.

Trademark issues seem to be occupying a lot of Google's time these days. The company is also involved in a trademark dispute with American Blind and Wallpaper, which filed suit against Google in New York Tuesday alleging infringement.

The Booble imbroglio has become a cause celebre online, with forums such as Slashdot debating the legal issues.

The adult search site says Google sent it an e-mail that says in part, "This Domain Name is confusingly similar to the famous GOOGLE trademark. Your Web site is a pornographic Web site. Your Web site improperly duplicates the distinctive and proprietary overall look and feel of Google's Web site...." The message also disputes that Booble.com is a parody because it does not create a composition that comments on the original.

The message concludes by asking Booble to disable the site, discontinue use of the domain name, transfer the domain name to Google, permanently refrain from any confusing or diluting use of the term "Google," and "cease and desist from using the Google trade dress."

"The Google demand letter as reproduced on the Booble site states a plausible argument as to why it is not a permissible parody," said Martin Schwimmer, a Mount Pleasant, N.Y. attorney specializing in trademark and domain name law.

A parody comments on the entity it is satirizing, Schwimmer said, but Booble in general does not do so. The one parody element Schwimmer noted is the bar beneath the search box, seemingly a takeoff on Google's "I'm feeling lucky" bar. The Booble version has various messages including "I'm feeling confused."

"This is a competitor. It's another search engine. It takes Google's logo and uses their layout, their white screen and colored letters, for the business of being a search engine," Schwimmer noted.

Booble does not use paid search as a revenue model, according to its founder, "Bob," a New York-based former Internet executive who refused to be identified further.

"That's fake," he said, referring to Booble listings that mimic the paid sponsorships on Google. "We get affiliate revenue from the adult sites we list," and that is the site's revenue model. Booble has a database of 6,000 adult-oriented sites.

"Do you really think anyone would confuse the two sites?" "Bob" countered in response to Schwimmer's comments, pointing out that Booble's top level page has a warning to those under 18 to leave immediately. Google has no such warning. "If I thought it was confusing, I would change it."

"Bob" said he started Booble as a joke and then got carried away, putting his own money into the venture. "I hope this is just the standard letter, the legal department did what they had to do and now will forget about it. But if they want a court to figure it out, so be it.

"We're using this as a platform to comment on what men are doing on the Web. Google is how people find pornography on the Internet. This is a parody of that. They claim we are defaming them by associating with them, but come on, get real!" "Bob" said.

Google representatives could not be reached for comment by press time.