Google's keyword advertising "infringes" on trade marks

3 February 2009

Buying keywords for online advertising is either fair game or a dirty business, depending on your point of view. If you're Google you don't get involved, despite the fact it's you selling the service; you simply shrug your shoulders and let the scraps between trade mark owners and competitors commence, while you pocket their coin.

Obviously, these trade marked companies aren't happy that anybody can bid on the same keywords and sell similar products; we recently reported on the case of M&S allegedly sponsoring the word “Interflora” (and several obvious spelling mistakes) as search engine keywords in Google’s AdWords programme.

That particular fight didn't involve Google; this one does. A French court has fined them €350,000 for allowing companies to infringe on two companies' trade marks. According to out-law.com, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris has ordered Google to pay €200,000 to Voyageurs du Monde (Travellers of the World) and €150,000 to Terres d'Aventure (Lands of Adventure), despite the judge saying that the commercial harm to the companies was marginal.

Of course, Google have played the innocent party throughout, stating:

"Google's terms and conditions make clear that advertisers are responsible for their choice of keywords and warn against their unauthorised use. Google believes that our advertising services comply with French and European law on online advertising."

Interestingly, two similar disputes in Germany have made it all the way to the European Court of Justice, who have been asked to rule on whether or not buying a trade mark a keyword constitutes use of that trade mark. A ruling from the big boys could force Google to rethink its terms and conditions for online advertisers in the UK.

[out-law.com]

TOPICS:   Technology

5 comments

  • si
    fancy (harry potter 6 ) using other peoples (batman dark knight) names and brands (facebook) just to get (utube)people to look (pixar) at your web site well (woolworths) you will not (zavvi) find me using there (fcuk) services .
  • jaysexy212005
    It doesn't look like google will take any action.
  • Frank P.
    This has been going on for many years in the finance market. People advertising as "AA Loans" when they don't offer loans from the AA. I don't think Google will do a thing.
  • Gav
    Even the French don't take much notice of the French courts, so I doubt that Google will.
  • Bill
    Worth noting that Pinsents, which rund the out-law site, is representing Interflora in their case against M&S over bidding on Interflora's trademark. Funny that out-law doesn't mention that in their piece given they have an interest in this area..

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