By CARRIE ANTLFINGER
MILWAUKEE (AP) – A Milwaukee-area personal injury law firm that paid to use the names of a competing firm in Internet search engines to promote its own link did not violate privacy laws, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled Thursday.
Habush, Habush & Rottier based its 2009 lawsuit against Cannon & Dunphy on a Wisconsin right-to-privacy statute that prohibits the use of any living person’s name for advertising purposes without the person’s consent.
Cannon acknowledged paying for the keywords of “Habush Rottier” but denied wrongdoing. A search for the words shows a sponsored link for Cannon & Dunphy attorneys, just above the link for Habush’s site.
Cannon & Dunphy argued it didn’t violate privacy laws because the rival attorneys’ names are not visible in Cannon & Dunphy’s sponsored links or its website and it’s a different kind of use than that to which the law has historically applied.
The 1st District Court of Appeals agreed in its ruling Thursday.
” … It is consistent with case law on which the statute is based and on case law interpreting statutory language that is comparable for our purposes,” according to the decision. It affirmed a previous Milwaukee County Circuit Court’s decision.
The lawsuit was filed in November 2009 in Milwaukee, where Habush is headquartered. Cannon is based in nearby Brookfield.
In a statement, Robert Habush and Dan Rottier said they were disappointed with the decision and expected to request a review by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A petition for review has to be filed within 30 days of the appeals court decision. A message and email sent to Cannon & Dunphy were not immediately returned Thursday.
Paying a company like Google for keywords is a common business practice. Based on how much a business pays, along with other search criteria, someone who searches for those keywords will see the company’s link at the top of the page, labeled as a sponsored link.