Internet freedom group wants delay in Utah law
It is telling Shurtleff that Utah's Trademark Protection Act will harm online users
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A organization dedicated to protecting Internet freedom Monday asked Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to halt implementation of Utah's new Trademark Protection Act, saying it will harm consumers and threatens free speech.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation urged Shurtleff to delay the law's June 30 implementation because consumer groups and law professors "believe that the legislation's restrictions on using trademarks to trigger competitive advertising will have a devastating effect on Internet users, online speech, and Internet commerce."

Last week Google, the world's largest Internet search engine, used similar language to warn the new law is unconstitutional and probably will land Utah in court. The law would curb so-called keyword-triggered advertising.

Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, and Sen. Dan Eastman, R-Bountiful, who sponsored the law, say it will create a "cottage industry" in registering trademarks, at $250 each. The lawmakers say the online community is exaggerating the impact of the law, which is meant to protect intellectual property.

Barring a court injunction or second thoughts on the part of lawmakers, the law will take effect at the end of June, protecting Utah registered trademarks from competitors who would pay search engines to key their advertising off of those brands. Under the law, a registered company could sue the search engine and the competitor if such ads are triggered in Utah-based searches.

State lawyers and even the man who drafted the law, Park City-based Unspam Technologies chief executive Matthew Prince, warned lawmakers it could bring lawsuits.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation letter outlines more precisely what it sees as the law's flaws, including that it hinders interstate commerce, may be in conflict with existing federal laws and is "a dangerous step toward transforming trademarks into monopolies on language" that courts have struck down.

gwarchol@sltrib.com