There have been many stories on various domain name squabbles. There has also been much discussion of the "Google Effect" on /., whereby domain registration seemed to be losing importance, as search engines, rather than direct URL input, direct traffic.
However, it appears that for businesses, securing a domain name and a trademark is no longer enough. In order to attract traffic, businesses may have to pay hefty advertising fees to appear near the top of search engine results, even when a user searches for the trademarked name of the business or product.
If the search engines lose this case, one of their primary sources of revenue may dry up. Search engines provide a valuable service which needs to be paid for somehow. How can good search resources be paid for without undermining the validity of the results? On the other hand, if the search engines win, trademark protections may become essentially worthless for many companies on-line, as deeper pockets will often be able to divert traffic away from small firms.
All the major search services and directories have some kind of paid links which come up as priority search results. These may be relatively benign text links, as on Google. Or, it may be more intrusive, such as Yahoo!'s "Inside Yahoo!" and "Sponsor Matches". These often fill the entire first screen of a search result. Users may find some of the rich variety of the web buried under an onslaught of links bidding for their attention.
As much as this is a problem for businesses, it's also a potential problem for consumers. Even if you know the exact product name, you may be directed to a competitor by some search engines. This is different from the well-known problem of info-glut. We may see info-glut come to be explicitly created, sponsored, and directed at web users to literally bury the competition. Will the value and usability of the web be significantly decreased if all users have to use more and more complex "advanced searches" in order to locate unbiased information?