Google wins battle over “counterfeit” Ad Words

Google has won a lengthy court battle with three French companies over the sale of “counterfeit” advertising keywords.

Google wins battle over

Luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton and two other companies were suing the search giant for allowing rivals to buy their names as advertising keywords. The companies argued this would allow counterfeit goods makers to profit from their brand name.

However, the European Court of Justice sided with the search engine, ruling that the sale of Ad Words didn’t infringe the companies’ trademarks.

“Some companies want to limit choice for users by extending trademark law to encompass the use of keywords in online advertising,” Google’s senior litigation counsel, Dr. Harjinder S Obhi, writes in a post on Google’s European Public Policy blog. “Ultimately they want to be able to exercise greater control over the information available to users by preventing other companies from advertising when a user enters their trademark as a search query.”

Google denied it was encouraging the trade in fake goods. “Contrary to what some are intimating, this case is not about us arguing for a right to advertise counterfeit goods,” Obhi writes. “We have strict policies that forbid the advertising of counterfeit goods; it’s a bad user experience. We work collaboratively with brand owners to better identify and deal with counterfeiters.”

However, in a potential warning shot to the search firm, the court did rule that “whenever there is a risk of [consumer] confusion, there will always be a trademark infringement,” suggesting that Google will have to take great care to ensure trademarked Ad Words are not misused.

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