One of the most pressing legal issues in the state of New Jersey has recently been tackled by a state-sponsored ethics panel. This concerns the use of specially designed attorney ads that incorporate the names of their competitors. The state of New Jersey has recently become the third, after Texas and Wyoming, to decide that buying the keyword of a competitor’s name does not constitute any kind of ethical misconduct.

The recently assembled ethics panel has also ruled that lawyers in the state of New Jersey can buy the keyword of their competitor’s name in order to make a search of that name show their own website in addition to the competitor’s.

According to the considered opinion of the panel, which includes some of the state’s most renowned intellectual property and copyright lawyers, the foregoing activities are ethical. This means that they are fully legal, cognizable, and do not violate any existing regulations regarding lawyer firm advertising, online communication, or misconduct in that realm.

What is and What isn’t Ethical When it Comes to Keywords?

However, this should not be taken to mean that the use of competitor’s names in keywords is a completely free and unrestricted area. There are certain practices which the ethics panel hastened to place under the ban.

These include paying a search engine for the ability to insert a hyperlink on the name of a competing lawyer that will divert the viewer to their own website. This is an activity that the state of New Jersey does consider to be gross misconduct.

The Same Keywords Can Be Bought By More Than One Business

One very interesting development, as highlighted recently on the Lawyers of Distinction website, is that the very same keywords can be bought and made of use of by more than one business. This is true of all types of businesses, not only legal firms.

The ethics panel came to the decision that businesses can purchase certain SEO keywords and phrases that name or describe the business of a competitor. Once bought, these phrases can be used so that when someone punches in a search for a certain business, the website of the business that bought the keyword will appear in the search bar. This appearance will take the form of “sponsored”, i.e., paid ads.