Can Google sell other companies trademarks as keywords in Adword campaigns? After years of deliberation, the EU Court of Justice says "yes".
A ruling in the Court of Justice of the European Union has allowed Google's Adwords service to make use of well known brand names to sell other people's websites, products and services.
Adwords works by displaying paid for links in response to a search and Adword users can select their own keywords to associate with their advert and site link. The idea seems harmless enough and has been the normal practice of search based advertising for a long time. The problem is that Adword users can select keywords that are brand names and hence in theory they can gain market advantage by associating themselves with better known entities.
Some brand owners, notably Louis Vuitton, have decided that giving a free ride to competitors linking to their brand name is tantamount to trademark infringement. It has also been argued that the ability to display "alternatives" to the well known brands on the same search pages also promotes counterfeiting of products. The court case which has been grumbling on for years has finally been settled and in Google's favour.
The ruling of the EU court means that Google can continue to allow advertisers to use the trade marks of major brand owners as keywords.
The ruling states:
"Google has not infringed trademark law by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords corresponding to their competitors' trademarks,"
However, in an apparent attempt to reduce counterfeit goods, it adds:
"Advertisers themselves, however, cannot, by using such keywords, arrange for Google to display ads which do not allow Internet users easily to establish from which undertaking the goods or services covered by the ad in question originate."
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