Yellow Cab sues Nashville rivals over search engine results

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 10:28am

A lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court claims the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act should apply to search engine optimization and online searches.

Yellow Cab Metro, Inc. filed separate lawsuits against two other taxi companies last Friday, accusing them of unlawfully using their corporate name online.

Yellow Cab Metro claims that Metro Livery, Inc. and Taxi USA of Tennessee, LLC knowingly attach their business information and telephone number to Google searches for “yellow cab Nashville.”

The first result on a Google Maps search for “Yellow Cab Nashville” is actually the address and phone number for Metro Livery, Inc. under a “Yellow Cab” label. Another search result on Google leads to 877yellowcab.com, which provides information for Allied Cab and Nashville Cab (Taxi USA of Tennessee’s companies).

“Defendant has intentionally, fraudulently, and maliciously placed printed listings with the online, internet, search engine, ‘Google’, using the name ‘Yellow Cab’ and listing Defendant’s telephone number and address… without Plaintiff’s permission,” the lawsuit reads.

Chicago-based SEO consultant Brent Payne said factors like website hits, positive customer reviews and information like a telephone number and address can help companies improve where they rank in web searches like Google.

Also, according to Payne, there is a reporting system in place at Google to help combat companies who may be providing false information on their site.

But Yellow Cab Metro decided to take the legal route.

The lawsuit, filed by Nashville attorney Richard Hedgepath, references the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act that prohibits "causing likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the source…of goods or services."

Hedgepath said he couldn’t find any case law in Tennessee that applied the TCPA to online listings and search engine optimization.

“I haven’t seen the distinction for online (actions),” Hedgepath said. “They are just deceiving the public.”

Taxi USA of Tennessee had no comment on the lawsuit and management for Metro Livery wasn’t available on Monday afternoon.