For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Autocomplete: can Google turn bad news into good profit?

If you thought autocomplete was about putting
cars together, think again!
The IPKat has just this minute learned of a ruling, hot off the press, from Germany's very own Bundesgerichtshof in BGH Case VI ZR 269/12 of 14 May 2013). That country's top appellate court has decided today that Google love-it-or-loathe-it autocomplete can in certain situations constitute a personality right infringement under Articles 823(1) and 1004 of the German Civil Code, when that provision is taken in combination with Articles 1 and 2 of the German Basic Law. This was the case on the facts leading to this appeal, where the unfortunate claimant discovered that, when internet users keyed his name into google.de, Google's autocomplete suggested the term "fraud".

Better news for Google is that, according to the BGH press release, Google is legally liable only once it is aware of an infringing autocompletion of this nature -- but not before. This appears to suggest that there should now some corresponding legal right to demand from Google, at least in Germany, that it remove any such information that causes infringement of one's personality right in this manner.

The IPKat is fascinated by this. If autocomplete can do damage like this to people's surnames, it can presumably offer words like "fraud", "sucks" and "malodorous" in respect of registered trade marks too -- many of which are people's names or surnames.  Merpel senses here that, in countries where the use of autocomplete carries no risk of legal liability, Google can develop a promising market for the sale of anti-keywords, where one can pay the company large sums of money for the privilege of suggesting poor quality, bad value for money or other undesirable characteristics in regard to a competitor's brands.

See also "Is Google Afraid of the Big Bad Wulff? No", here.

1 comment:

Rahul said...

Merpel said,""Merpel senses here that, in countries where the use of autocomplete carries no risk of legal liability, Google can develop a promising market for the sale of anti-keywords, where one can pay the company large sums of money for the privilege of suggesting poor quality, bad value for money or other undesirable characteristics in regard to a competitor's brands."

"Don't be evil, Merpel",says Google

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