Meta tags don’t really matter. You probably knew it all along yourself, but now the Court in the United States has confirmed this statement on solid legal grounds. In the Standard Process vs Banks processed, Dr. Banks was accused of using trademarked meta tags on his website, which, according to Standard Process, would confuse customers about the origin of the product. The Court thought otherwise.
As more and more webmasters “manipulated their keyword meta tags to provide suboptimal keyword associations, search engines progressively realized that keyword
meta tags were a poor indicator of relevancy. Accordingly, search engines today primarily use algorithms that rank a website by the number of other sites that link or point to it”. Constitution seems to be catching up with Internet technology indeed.
In the prior Brooklyn case of 1999 the court decided that the use of trademarked meta keywords was prohibited because it would generate traffic from the original trademarked site and therefore benefiting from the brands (online) goodwill. From now on this not true anymore.
The rest of the case can serve as an interesting lesson for brick ‘n mortar companies trying to set up an anti-internet distribution policy. On one hand Standard Process prohibits its dealers to sell products through the Internet, apparently as means of safeguarding quality and brand perception. On the other hand, Dr Banks after being kicked as an official dealer, still distributes products he acquires from an authorized channel through the internet.
Dr Banks eventually won the case because when the visitor is warned with a disclaimer that there is no sponsorship relation between the seller and the product manufacturers, third party reselling cannot be prohibited. Contrarily, including photographs of the products in a sales e-mail was found to be confusing for customers and therefore not legal.
But the most important lesson here is maybe that the Internet as a distribution channel can hardly be ignored or fought by traditional distribution channels in search of exclusiveness. So if you cannot beat the enemy, join them!