Google ‘keywords’ do not infringe trade mark rights, says EU advisor
An advisor to the European Union has backed Google against legal battle with luxury goods maker LVMH over trademark infringement.
Poiares maduro, EU Advocate General, said in a statement: “Google has not infringed trade mark rights by allowing advertisers to buy keywords corresponding to registered trade marks.”
Google has been fighting a case in European Court of Justice, or ECJ against many French companies including LVMH that claimed that the search engine infringed its trade marks corresponding to the keywords. It has been established in those proceedings that entering certain trade marks into Google’s search engine triggered the display of ads for sites offering counterfeit versions of the products covered by the trade mark or identical or similar products of competitors.
Mr Maduro is of the opinion, that the use of the trade marks is limited to the selection of keywords which is internal to AdWords and concerns only Google and the advertisers. He said, when selecting keywords, there is thus no product or service sold to the general public and such a use cannot be considered as being a use made in relation to goods or services identical or similar to those covered by the trade marks.
Mr Maduro said: “The mere display of relevant sites in response to keywords is not enough to establish a risk of confusion on the part of consumers as to the origin of goods or services. Internet users are aware that not only the site of the trade mark owner will appear as a result of a search in Google’s search engine and sometimes they may not even be looking for that site.
“These users will only make an assessment as to the origin of the goods or services advertised on the basis of the content of the ad and by visiting the advertised sites; no assessment will be based solely on the fact that the ads are displayed following the entry of keywords corresponding to trade marks.”
However, Google may be liable if the content it featured in AdWords involves trade mark infringement. But, trade mark owners would have to point to specific instances giving rise to Google’s liability in the context of illegal damage to their trade marks, he added.