Professor David Franklyn is engaged in a series of empirical studies with Professor David Hyman of the University of Illinois College of Law on consumer perceptions of search engine results. These studies were prompted by dozens of lawsuits in the United States and abroad in which trademark owners sued search engines and advertisers over the sale of their trademarks as keywords.
The project is comprised of two parts. One part examines whether consumers are diverted by paid placement ads that use purchased trademarks as linking devices; whether consumers are confused by the resulting display of ads; whether consumers know the difference between paid and unpaid search results; and whether consumers believe it is fair and appropriate for search engines to sell trademarks as keywords to competitors.
In another part of the project, the authors ran 2,500 trademarks through three major search engines, and captured the results using a specially designed program. The search results included the top five organic links and the top five paid links for each trademark. The authors then supervised the coding of the results into 21 categories to determine which types of entities, and with what degree of frequency, were purchasing the trademarks as keywords. The results of both projects will be published shortly.