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The Roundup May 15

And speaking of the evil that Google does . . .

On Monday, FPX filed a class-action suit against Google in federal court in Texas, saying that Google had infringed on its trademark and challenging Google’s policies on behalf of all trademark owners in the state. Legal experts said it was the first class-action suit against Google over the issue.

But Google’s acceptance of such competitive uses of trademarks has irked many other companies, including the likes of American Airlines and Geico, which have filed suits against Google and settled them. Many brand owners say the practice abuses their brands, confuses customers and increases their cost of doing business.

None of this, apparently, is giving Google much reason to reconsider. This month, it expanded to more than 190 new countries its policy of allowing anyone to buy someone else’s trademark as a trigger for an ad. And late Thursday it announced that it would allow limited use of trademarks in the text of some search ads, even if the trademark owner objects.

(“Companies Object to Google Policy on Trademarks ,” New York Times, May 14) In previous post, I meandered around both sides of the argument and came up with a fairly reasonable compromise. It seems Google ain’t in a compromisin’ mood. Now, Google isn’t doing anything that other paid search services, like Yahoo! and Microsoft, aren’t doing; but the whole thing stinks. The only purpose Google is pursuing is driving up the cost of trademarked names as ad triggers. Again, if they truly wanted to serve their customers (which is what they always say), then they’d adopt some kind of compromise that I outlined earlier.


And now the other shoe falls . . .

General Motors today announced it would inform about 1,100 dealers — or 18% of its 5,969 stores — that the automaker no longer “sees them as part of its dealer network on a long-term basis.”. . .

What’s more, about 470 Saturn, Hummer and Saab dealers will soon be updated on the status of those brands. GM is trying to sell or wind down those brands.

(“GM says it will ax 1,100 dealers,” Detroit Free Press, May 15) We already discussed why cutting dealerships makes good business sense for both GM and Chrysler. But given GM’s track record over the last ten years, cutting 10% of its dealer just ain’t going to do the job.


Okay, I was wrong. But we’re now in the 17th month of a recession, so it’s hard for the helium to stay in any balloon.

Video game industry revenue was down 17 percent in April, the second tough month in a row for an industry that had managed to skip past many of the economic woes.

April video game hardware, software and accessory sales came in at $1.03 billion compared to $1.24 billion last year. Software was down 23 percent to $510.7 million while hardware benefited from the launch of the Nintendo DSi (1.04 million units), which helped sales decline by just 8 percent to $391.6 million. Accessories were off 15 percent at $129.4 million.

The top title was Wii Fit(471k), which is the third time this year it’s held the top spot after losing the position in March with the release of Resident Evil 5, Pokemon Platinum Version and Halo Wars. Nintendo actually took the top four spots in April with Pokemon Platinum Version (433k), Mario Kart (210k) and Wii Play (170k) following.

(“Video game industry muddles through tough April,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 15) I’ve said it more than once: video game entertainment is a recession-resistant business. Why? Because all those people out-of-work do need something to occupy their time, and video games offer the best value in terms of hours of entertainment time for each dollar spent. We are, however, in the 17th month of a recession — and it’s been nine months since the atomic melt-down of the world’s major financial institutions. At some point, things like unemployment benefits are going to run out. Folks are going to start wasting time playing games they’ve already been through once or twice. Why buy Halo 3 when you can march through Doom one more time?

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