Advertising law

Google 'Adwords' Don't Violate Trademark Law, Adviser Tells EU Court

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In an opinion that could point the way for a first-of-a-kind court ruling in the European Union, an adviser to the European Court of Justice says the use of a competitor’s trademark as a keyword by companies advertising on Google doesn’t violate trademark law.

The issue is at the heart of the so-called adwords approach used by Google in selling ads on its search engine. Under this approach, a competitor can pay to make use of a company’s trademark as a search keyword, thus directing potential customers of that company to the competitor’s Internet ad, explains Dow Jones Newswires (sub. req.).

“Google has not infringed trademark rights by allowing advertisers to buy keywords corresponding to registered trademarks,” says the opinion prepared for the French Cour de Cassation by Advocate General Poiares Maduro. However, using a competitor’s trademark in the content of the ad could still violate the law.

The Cour de Cassation has asked the ECJ for a ruling on the trademark issue concerning an ongoing case. If the ECJ follows Maduro’s opinion, this “will be a major defeat for brand owners and would mark victory in Europe for Google’s AdWords business,” says trademark attorney Adrian Heath-Saunders of Wedlake Bell.

Earlier related coverage: “PI Attorneys Sue Google Over ‘Adwords’ Sale of Law Firm Name to Competitor”

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