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In Europe, Google Wins Right To Sell Ads Linked To Brand Names

Posted by Barry Silverstein on March 25, 2010 08:01 AM

A case in a European court pitting LVMH, the owner of the Louis Vuitton brand, against Google, as reported by brandchannel, has been decided in favor of Google.

The case involved LVMH's claim that, by selling the Louis Vuitton brand name to anyone as a search term, Google was infringing on its trademark and promoting the online sale of counterfeit products.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg "ruled that Google isn't liable for trademark infringement when it sells linked ads to a brand's competitor" because Google is only a host for ads. But "the court opened the door for brands to demand that Google take down ads that confuse consumers." All 27 member countries of the European Union are affected by the ruling, which applies to all search engines.

According to the court's ruling, if a brand owner believes that consumers will be confused by a particular ad, the brand owner is responsible for requesting that Google remove that ad on an individual basis. Advertisers using a competitor's brand name are required to differentiate their goods. But Google is basically free to continue to sell brand name search terms.

Legal analysts seem to agree that the court's ruling supports Google's business model. Nicola Dagg, a London intellectual property lawyer, told The Wall Street Journal, "It gives Google legal certainty over what is a very big cash cow." Mark Blair, a London-based expert in intellectual property law, told The Journal, "Now they [brand owners] can't put the blame at Google's feet. ... They have to deal with each advertiser on a case-by-case basis."

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