The first ever Russian lawsuit brought against a BlackHat SEO was dismissed this week in St. Petersberg. The SEO in question had used trademarked terms belonging to other companies in the META tags of their clients’ sites. This was done in an attempt to rank their clients in the SERPs for these trademarked terms. Under Russian law it is forbidden to use another company’s trademark in a domain name or other types of addressing.
However the case was dismissed on the grounds that the court were unable to qualify that HTML code containing the META tags was a “type of addressing” under Part 4 of the Civil Code. This part of the law has been most commonly employed to stop companies using trademarked brands and logos on their packaging, without permission from the trademark holder. As with many internet-related issues, the lawyers found this was a blunt tool to deal with this situation.
Key to the defence was the fact that the contested trademarked terms were not visible on the site itself. Unlike traditional product packaging the META information remains invisible to the general public. Therefore the court had no choice but to find the defendants not guilty.
Blackhat SEO is endemic in Russia, encouraged by the relatively young state of the online marketing industry. While there are some successful brand name agencies, many SEO operators work as freelancers for hire. Low budgets, high client expectations and a lack of knowledge encourage Russian SEOs to look for automated ranking solutions. This is compounded by a lack of filters/penalties in the Russian engines, when compared to Google or Yahoo!