France Leads The EU in Objecting to Google
The AdWords trademark issue went before the highest authorities in France, but this time Search Engine Google came out on the top of the heap. According to Search Engine Land:
European luxury goods maker LVMH (Luis Vuitton) sued Google in France over its AdWords policy allowing third parties, including LVMH competitors, to bid on its trademarked terms as keywords. The case originally arose when marketers bid on “Louis Vuitton” and turned out to be selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton items.
The Google Blog elaborates:
The question before the court was whether advertisers should be allowed to choose keywords freely when reaching out to users on the Internet. In other words, if advertisers are allowed to show advertisements when another company’s brand name is entered as a search query.
Google has been strict about taking down sites selling counterfeit goods, Google points out, but they also believe that trademark rights are not absolute. Ultimately the French court upheld that view:
Today, the Court confirmed that Google has not infringed trade mark law by allowing advertisers to bid for keywords corresponding to their competitors’ trade marks. It also confirmed that European law that protects internet hosting services applies to Google’s AdWords advertising system. This is important because it is a fundamental principle behind the free flow of information over the internet.
The NY Times comments that this is not so large a victory as Google would make it appear; individuals can still be sue:
The European Court said national courts in the 27 E.U. member states should decide on such cases.
“Advertisers using the service will now need to tread very carefully indeed,” said Mark Blair, a partner at Marks & Clerk Solicitors in London. “Today’s ruling may to an extent ring-fence Google from claims by brand owners, but it will not close the door on future litigation in this area.”
Trademark violations have been an ongoing story with Google AdWords for some time.