Skype has been accused of heavy-handedness after it succeeded in stopping third-parties from using the word Skype in Google adword advertising.
One such company German outfit iPoque sells a network device to monitor for and block Skype on corporate networks. A fortnight ago, after it started running a campaign using Google keywords such as block Skype and Skype filter, it received an e-mail from Google's operation in Germany stating that Skype had asserted its right to block these phrases.
iPoques adwords have since disappeared from Google. Running such a search now brings up only an ad for the Skype service itself, whether run on Google.co.uk or the international site google.com/intl/en.
Google subsequently referred iPoque to the policy under which it allows the owner of a trademark to make a blocking request. The policy states that advertisers and trademark holders should attempt to resolve disputes over adwords themselves.
However, the policy continues. As a courtesy to trademark owners, however, we are willing to perform a limited investigation of reasonable complaints. Our procedure differs depending on the country in which trademark rights exist. That complaint was clearly successful.
Coincidentally, Google and Skype have recently been connected to one another on other fronts. Less than two weeks ago they became co-investors in Spanish WiFi startup FON Technology.
The German company has expressed frustration at Skypes actions, pointing out that their filter is a legitimate product for security compliance and bandwidth management and that they are not anti-Skype per se.
Google adwords are a good way to search for new customers, said iPoque CEO Klaus Mochalski. That avenue had now been closed by Skypes actions, a situation that would now apply to any other company trying to use adwords to alert Google users to products in any way related to Skype.
Other search engines such as Yahoo dont appear to be affected to that degree, though as market leader Google is the one that matters to iPoque
Skypes fussiness goes beyond adwords. French company IS Decisions published a product, Skypekiller, as a marketing aid for its client management software. The product, designed to spot the Skype client running without permission on company networks, can be downloaded free of charge.
According to a company spokesperson, within days of the domain going live in October 2005, Skype had bought up every other free common domain containing the phrase Skypekiller, presumably to stop its use by others. A check on the whois database revealed that Skype did indeed complete the purchase the .org, .info. biz, and .net domains through US domain registrant Go Daddy software Inc. in November.
Why the fuss over Skype? An increasing number of sysadmins have become worried about the implications of it being used on networks in terms of compliance and security. In common with a growing band of VoIP programs, Skype sets up its calls using an encrypted tunnel from within a company network, making security monitoring almost impossible. Its use is very hard to detect or stop, and consumes bandwidth.
When contacted, Skype was unable to comment on the story in time for publication.