The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said on Wednesday that Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) did not violate Wisconsin privacy laws by misusing a woman’s name to generate advertising revenue.
Wisconsin resident Beverly Stayart claimed in Stayart v. Google Inc. that a search for "bev stayart" on the search engine generates a recommended search for "bev stayart levitra," which can direct users to websites that offer treatments for male erectile dysfunction.
Stayart, of Elkhorn, Wis., said that the misdirection hindered her "positive and wholesome image," which is linked to her advocacy for animal rights, her research in genealogy, her published poems and her MBA degree from the University of Chicago.
But according to a a three-judge appeals court panel, Google's alleged improper use of Stayart's name falls within the "public interest" and "incidental use" exceptions of Wisconsin's misappropriation laws, either of which would doom the lawsuit.
Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote that the search "bev stayart levitra" was a matter of public interest because Stayart had made it one by suing Google, and by previously suing rival Yahoo Inc. over similar claims, which she lost.
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The 7th Circuit Court issued the decision more than 11 months after oral arguments. It upheld a March 2011 ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee.