How Can Smart People Make Such Stupid Laws?
I found this article through Slashdot today, and I’m embarrased to call myself a Utahn. Apparently our legislature has just passed a law that bans keyword advertising. Not all keyword advertising, just the ones that use something that could loosely be tied to a competitor’s trademark. If you’re in the same industry, couldn’t any keyword fit that description?
Apparently the law only applies if the ad is displayed in Utah or the advertiser/keyword vendor is located in Utah. How on Earth does one control that? In reality, every advertiser would have to check a Utah registry before buying keywords that might contain a trademark of a competitor. In fact, the language of the law is even more vague. It defines a trademark as an “electronic registration mark…[a] word, term, or name that represents a business, goods, or a service.” How does the state of Utah possibly expect to enforce this law?
If all this doesn’t spell S-T-U-P-I-D-I-T-Y, the law passed despite the fact that Utah’s general counsel informed the legislature that the law violated the dormant commerce clause.
The bills champion, Dan Eastman, is trying to protect against so-called trademark hijacking, which he refers to as a new form of identity theft. While that is a problem, this is one solution that will never work. The consitutional issues involved are only one massive obstacle in the road, not to mention the lack of support from anyone with a brain (OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh).
The likely outcome is that the law won’t stand up under scrutiny or even a slight breeze, but before we can bury it, our tax dollars will have to pay for the litigation and resulting court cases so the judges can strike it down. Couldn’t the state be doing something worthwhile with our money, like working on the new Real Salt Lake stadium? (And yes, I’m glad the stadium is being built)