Price Chopper Suing ShopRite Over Keywords

Discussion
Oct 26, 2011
George Anderson

Golub Corp., owner of the Price Chopper supermarket chain, is suing Wakefern for copyright infringement for paying Google, Bing and Yahoo! for keywords that put ShopRite on the top of search results for terms including Price Chopper.

While the practice Golub is suing over is common in today’s market, the company maintains that Wakefern took it to a new level. Company representatives told the (Albany) Times Union that Wakefern paid to be on top of searches that included "Price Chopper flyer." Golub maintains that people who clicked on that link thought they were going to the Price Chopper site, but instead went to ShopRite’s.

"We think it’s highly deceptive," Price Chopper spokesperson Mona Golub told the Times Union. "It’s using Price Chopper’s established name to redirect a consumer to another site that happens to be a competitor to Price Chopper."

Wakefern, which said it had only become aware of the issue last week from a media outlet in the Albany area, said it has pulled the search ads. Golub intends to continue with the suit.

According to The Business Review, ShopRite opened its first new store in about 20 years in New York’s capital region last month. Plans call for three more ShopRites to open in the area.

Rhea Drysdale, co-founder of Outspoken Media, an internet marketing firm, said Golub had an option beyond filing a suit. It could have taken the case to Google.

"In my mind, the responsibility is on Google to monitor that." Ms. Drysdale said.

Discussion Questions: Do you see keyword competition heating up as search becomes more important to the digital marketing efforts of retailers and brands? Aside from the legal questions, what do you make of the case of Golub v. Wakefern from a competitive marketing standpoint?

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14 Comments on "Price Chopper Suing ShopRite Over Keywords"


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Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 6 months ago

This is all Google’s fault. They are the SEO experts and should have picked up on the deceptive practices that ShopRite was engaging in. As for keyword competition, it can only be held against trademarked names i.e. ShopRite’s search engine package could not contain any Price Chopper terminology. The word supermarket or flyer cannot be trademarked and are open game but ‘Price Chopper flyer’ or ‘Price Chopper sales’ shouldn’t be part of ShopRite’s keyword list. This is something that Google and the other crawlers should have picked up on in the beginning. In terms of the lawsuit, sure, why not. ShopRite did infringe on certain marketing aspects that belong to Price Chopper.

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Self regulation seems to be a potential solution when the guidelines are in the public domain. We’ve discussed this issue previously and the opinions varied. There’s no grievance for more effective advertising or marketing strategy, but there seems to be a line drawn in the cyber sand about search. Perhaps it’s time for retailers and other marketers to clarify acceptable and legal limitations.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

I was aware that there are all sorts of ambush marketing tactics being used including registering the most common misspelling of a domain name and then redirecting the traffic to a different site, but it had not occurred to me that someone would use this particular tactic. I would expect that many companies use similar key words to attract people to their site and also pay Google and the other search engine to promote them. That being said, I believe that using your competitors name as a keyword crosses the line. In this case if may have simply been an associate who thought the addition of Price Chopper to the key word list would drive traffic rather than a corporate decision.

Not sure the legal ramifications surrounding the issues have been addressed. If it accomplishes nothing else hopefully this case will be decided in Price Chopper’s favor and establish a precedent for any future cases.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Keyword competition has always been important. If retailers are just realizing this now, they are way behind the curve. A keyword buyer should look for every advantage. If another retailer feels wronged, they should contact Google or pay more for the keywords. Filing a lawsuit is frivolous and costly.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Keyword competition has been, and remains, intensely competitive. Based on my client work, I’m really not sure how much “hotter” it could get.

Golub was, of course, right to go after Wakefern, but in a free market isn’t Wakefern allowed to do whatever is legal to promote its own business?

Was it unethical? Probably.

Does it happen all the time? Sure does!

Does that make it right? I don’t know — we don’t have a lot of Internet Ethicists running around to help us with that.

In one sense, this is nothing new. I’m reminded of the old cartoon that shows barber shops located across the street from each other. A sign in the window of the first shop proudly proclaims, “Haircuts $5 !!!!” The sign in the competitor’s window reads, “$5 haircuts repaired — $8.”

The point is, a lot of marketing — for better and/or worse — is a matter of who gets there first … and how long they can get away with staying there.

Justin Time
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Just think; what if Gimbels still existed as a business today. Heaven knows just how many keywords would be tied up between them and Macy’s about price, value and selection.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 6 months ago

Another example of “if you can’t compete, litigate.” As Dick said in Shakespeare’s Henry VI “First, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

David Slavick
Guest
David Slavick
9 years 6 months ago

You snooze, you lose. Seriously, file suit because a company took advantage of the service solution? This points to a role/responsibility at every BtoC and BtoB operator on a worldwide basis. Put in place a Social Media Manager or Administrator function with an accountability to protect what is important to the current and future plans of the enterprise. The courts should not have to settle what sound marketing practices can solve.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
9 years 6 months ago

This feels like a corporate ethics and values issue to me. I’m sure there are service providers and agencies that are prepared to go to these lengths for their clients — where their values are just words on a poster.

Likely if they will do this for one paying client, then they’ll do it for others. I guess if you choose them or stay with them then you know what you are dealing with….

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Suing ShopRite will make Price Chopper look like a sore loser. Price Chopper snoozed. If you have a compelling store to shop companies should not be concerned about petty things like this.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

As long as the guidelines are murky, we’ll continue to have these issues. I think that everyone wants to see this resolved in a definitive way.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This is nothing short of absurd. The keywords were reflected by Google, who is partially responsible, and the redirect occurred because Golub has not protected its own keywords…this was a mistake in the ether, which had very little consequence, since neither player is a major Internet powerhouse, and their search engine optimization efforts are clearly not very well developed. Until more organizations wake up to the 21st century, absurd lawsuits like this one will continue. This is not illegal, but probably unethical. Golub needs to learn their lesson and have a modern SEO practice that protects their copyrights, trademarks, and nomenclature in the online world.

Dan Raftery
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Golub made two mistakes here that imply they are not in the Internet marketing game.

1. They had not previously registered this keyword with Google.

2. They went after Wakefern in a courtroom rather than taking it up with Google.

Keyword registration became a critical component of Intellectual Property protection very shortly after Google launched. Google knows how to and does respond to legitimate complaints. This happens all the time. And I’m not sure what judge would have enough time on his/her docket to bother with this.

The more chatter this gets, the more damage could be done to Price Chopper’s image, especially among those who live a part of their day in the virtual dimension.

Nancy Liberman
Guest
Nancy Liberman
9 years 6 months ago

In the paid search arena, there’s no question that keyword competition is heating up, and as a result, costs per click have increased exponentially. We focus on paid search, but in the realm of retail sites rather than search engines as it’s a bit closer to the final purchase; and our position is that it’s critical that bid not be the only factor to dictate product position…it is just one of many variables that render a search result.

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