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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

AdWords and keywords everywhere

AdWord decisions are everywhere these days... or so it seems. The IPKat has news from the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) hearing in the Google France v. Louis Vuitton Malletier case (C- 236/08) and an update on the German Federal Supreme Court's recent AdWord decisions.


Bloomberg's Stephanie Bodoni, who is an old friend of the IPKat, reports of the ECJ's hearing in Google France v. Louis Vuitton Malletier (C- 236/08), one of the three joined cases C-236/08, C-237/08, C-238/08 which the French Cour de Cassation had referred to the ECJ for preliminary rulings (see the IPKat's post here). The ongoing dispute between Google France and Louis Vuitton Malletier (LVMH) centres around the use of keyword (AdWord) advertising and Internet searches that display sponsored links that refer users to sites selling rival products and even counterfeits.

Arguments brought forward by Google's lawyer, Alexandra Neri, include:

  • “Google makes money not by reason of the nature of the keyword, but by someone clicking on the keyword.”
  • “The decision to click or not to click belongs to who -- clearly to the Internet user.”
  • In Bloomberg's report Ms. Neri is further cited as telling the court that 'Keywords aren’t visible and therefore can’t be considered a protected trademark', [the IPKat wonders whether this is really what Ms. Neri said].
  • Google “doesn’t seek to play policeman to control what the advertisers do”. Ms Neri is further cited as saying that when Google’s French unit received proof of a registered trade mark from a company, it would add the same to a database in order to have it blocked from being chosen as a keyword.
Arguments brought forward by LVMH's lawyer, Patrice de Cande, include:
  • “Google’s advertisement activities have given companies which sell fake products unprecedented visibility beyond their wildest dreams.”
  • In Bloomberg's report Mr. de Cande is cited as telling the court that Google had not acted quickly enough when it received Louis Vuitton’s complaint and that it did not change its system.
  • Mr. de Cande is further cited as saying that Google was perfectly capable to block such infringing use “but it won’t do so until it is legally required to do so”.
As a much wiser Kat has said before, the Court's ruling will be one of the most commercially sensitive it has ever faced because it can make or break the keywords industry in Europe.

For further information on the French Cour de Cassation's referral to the ECJ, please see French blogger extraordinaire Frédéric Glaize's posts on the Class 46 weblog here, here and here.


In the meantime, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) has published the full text of its AdWord decisions in the the Beta Layout and pcb cases (Beta Layout, I ZR 30/07 and pbc, I ZR 139/07; see the IPKat's earlier post here). As with the Bundesgerichtshof's ECJ referral in the bananabay case (I ZR 125/07), this Kat tried again to translate the court's headnotes. Additions in [square red brackets] have been added by the IPKat in an attempt to make the headnotes easier to digest.

Beta Layout (I ZR 30/07)

The IPKat's translation attempt:

If a term, which is consistent with third party's company name(Unternehmenskennzeichen), is booked as a so-called keyword with an Internet search engine, then a likelihood of confusion between the keyword and the protected sign can be denied, in cases where the term is entered [as a search term in the search engine] by an Internet user if an advertisement of the party that had booked the keyword is subsequently displayed on an Internet site, next to and to the right of the [actual] results list under the heading "Advertisements" - provided that the advertisement itself does not use the protected sign.

The Bundesgerichtshof's German headnote:

"Wird ein mit einem fremden Unternehmenskennzeichen übereinstimmender Begriff bei einer Internetsuchmaschine als sogenanntes Schlüsselwort (Keyword) angemeldet, so kann eine Verwechslungsgefahr zwischen dem Schlüsselwort und dem geschützten Kennzeichen zu verneinen sein, wenn bei Eingabe des Begriffs durch einen Internetnutzer auf der dann erscheinenden Internetseite rechts neben der Trefferliste unter einer Rubrik mit der Überschrift „Anzeigen" eine Werbeanzeige des Anmelders des Schlüsselworts eingeblendet wird, in der das geschützte Zeichen selbst nicht verwendet wird."

* Full text available here (in German)


pcb (I ZR 139/07)

The IPKat's translation attempt:

If a term, which the relevant trade circles will interpret as descriptive information about the characteristics and features of goods (here: "pcb" als short for "printed circuit board"), is booked as a so-called keyword with a search engine, then use [of this term] might not constitute use a trade sign/trade mark, where this term is protected as a trade mark (here: "pcb-pool") and is entered by an Internet user [as a search term in the search engine], if an advertisement of the party that had booked the keyword is subsequently displayed on an Internet site, next to and to the right side of the [actual] results list under the heading "Advertisements" - provided that the advertisement itself does not use the protected sign.


The Bundesgerichtshof's German headnote:

"Wird bei einer Internetsuchmaschine eine Bezeichnung, die von den angesprochenen Verkehrskreisen als eine beschreibende Angabe über Merkmale undEigenschaften von Waren verstanden wird (hier: „pcb" als Abkürzung von „printed circuit board"), als sogenanntes Schlüsselwort (Keyword) angemeldet, ist eine kennzeichenmäßige Verwendung zu verneinen, wenn bei Eingabe einer als Marke geschützten Bezeichnung durch einen Internetnutzer (hier: „pcb-pool") auf der dann erscheinenden Internetseite rechts neben der Trefferliste unter einer Rubrik mit der Überschrift „Anzeigen" eine Werbeanzeige des Anmelders des Schlüsselworts eingeblendet wird, in der das geschützte Zeichen selbst nicht verwendet wird."

*Full text available here (in German)

If any of our readers have alternative and more elegant translations, then the IPKat would love to hear from them.

2 comments:

AntiAdWord said...

I hope the ECJ will make all these AdWords go away quickly.

Matti said...

Can anyone shed light on when - if ever - a advertiser may make fair use of a competitor's trade mark? Or is there simply no means by which a company can search Google for a competitive product?

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