Sacrebleu! A blow to Google in Europe

No liberty, egality, and fraternity for Google in Paris this week.

No liberty, egality, and fraternity for Google in Paris this week.

According to this report, Google has suffered a loss in Paris.

A French court has fined search engine giant Google €350,000 and said that its search advertising business has infringed on two companies’ trade marks.

[…]

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.

[…]

The Court said that though the commercial harm was marginal it had denied the companies some customers by directing them to other sites, French newspaper Le Figaro reported.

Google said that it has already appealed the case to the Paris Court of Appeal.

[…]

Last week a German court asked the European Union’s top court the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule on two similar disputes. It has asked the ECJ to rule on whether or not the purchase of a trade marked term as a keyword constitutes use of that trade mark.

Google’s AdWords program allows virtually anyone to purchase, as a “trigger” keyword for advertising, any word.  Their U.S. policy (which now apparently has been expanded worldwide) states only that trademark owners may demand takedown of any advertisement in which a competitor uses the owner’s trademark in the body of the advertisement shown to the web surfer only. Google claims that the “internal” use of purchasing a word to trigger an ad to appear is not a “use in commerce” covered by the Lanham Act.  There can be no consumer confusion, Google argues, because the ad clearly demonstrates that the goods and services derive from a different source, and/or provide the customer alternative products to the one that they may have been searching for (no different from, say, grocery stores selling shelf space for competitors products next to the “leading brand”).  I tend to agree and believe that, at least under U.S. law, no trademark infringement occurs if Google sells a trademark as an AdWord, so long as the advertisement itself does not contain the trademark term. Google’s now becoming aggressive in Europe, attempting to equalize its policies across the pond with those in the U.S.  We’ll keep our eyes posted.

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Filed under Law, Trademarks

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