Remember the bad Spock from the parallel universe? The Vulcan who wore a menacing goatee? Well, it seems that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has its own bearded evil twin, and he's ready to make another cameo.

Google's original courtroom victory in a patent-infringement suit has been dealt a blow, now that an appeals court will let part of Google's successful defense be contested.

Initially bringing the lawsuit was HyperPhrase, which charged that Big G's AdSense product and AutoLink toolbar feature trampled on its intellectual property.

Thankfully for Google, only the AutoLink feature will get a second run through the court system. Since Google relies on online advertising for 99% of its revenue, any setbacks to its AdSense cash cow would have sent chills down shareholders' spines.

That's not to discount the AutoLink feature, a toolbar option with which Google overlays hyperlinks to Web-page text, such as package-tracking information, ISBN book data, and maps. In theory, AutoLink makes finding things easier, though some critics argue that Google shouldn't be doctoring the presentation of third-party publisher pages.

If Google doesn't prevail in court, losing AutoLink won't move the needle in terms of Google's fundamentals. My concern here is that the dissemination of news about the case may hurt Google if casual users misconstrue the actual intent of AutoLink.

At a time when hungry search engines such as IAC/InterActiveCorp's (NASDAQ:IACI) are bending over backwards to win the support of privacy-protection advocates, the last thing Google needs is for headlines to delve into how it's navigating users through non-owned sites. Larger search engines such as those from Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) aren't saints, but they'll probably enjoy watching this fight, too.

Even if Google is sure of legal victory, it may want to set a plan in motion to distance itself from its AutoLink feature. Or it may want to launch an educational campaign to illustrate why it's in the consumer's best interest to let Google provide one-click access to package-tracking information or vehicle ID number data.

If Google doesn't play this the right way, it could still win in a court of law but lose in the court of public opinion. Google's evil twin -- the one that shows up occasionally to bring Google's "do no evil" mantra down -- doesn't belong in any scene involving global domination. It's just not logical.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge fan of Google, and it would be his home page if not for He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.