A King Kong Lawsuit Filed Against Google Over Giant, Inflatable Blue Gorillas

Ever seen one of those giant blue gorillas at a car dealership? It looks like someone at Google may have, as using a similar image in an ad for Google AdWords has now gotten Google sued.

Eric Goldman has the legal rundown of the case here, but as they say, a picture’s worth a 1,000 words.

Here’s an example of the giant inflatable gorillas made by Sherba Industries, the company behind Inflatable Images. Here’s an image right out of the lawsuit:

And here’s the Google ad in question, also from the lawsuit:

They look the same to me. It’s hard to imagine that someone at Google behind that ad wasn’t thinking of the Sherba gorilla, much less working off an image of one.

As Goldman points out, Google might not have realized there were copyrights granted to inflatable gorillas:

One possibility: it never occurred to Google that any manufacturer of inflatable gorillas would claim a copyright over the product design. That’s not exactly intuitive.

That’s what the suit is about, whether Google violated Sherba’s copyright by using the image. Goldman suspects that the usage is so inconsequential that a judge might dismiss an infringement claim.

The suit seeks to prevent Google from using the gorilla image and the maximum amount of statutory damages allowed, which seems likely to be in the thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Legal | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.tcampbell.net T Campbell

    And all for such a tacky, schlocky effort.

  • tdsmith

    Take a look at a lawsuit entitled Rock and Roll Hall of Fame v. Gentile. Gentile, a commercial photographer, took a picture of the Hall of Fame building in Cleveland and used the image on T-shirts and postcards. The Hall sued, claiming copyright infringement. The photog won on the grounds that while the building design was copyrighted — just like the gorilla sculpture — the image was not and was available for anyone to see and make a copy of its appearance for his/her own use. May not have been too bright of Google to copy the image, but it may not be copyright infringement either.

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