AdWords Do Not Infringe Trademark Law – EU

By July 20, 20104 Comments

The keywords used by some companies to advertise on Google AdWords have led to a controversy regarding trademark laws.

Businesses have been known to use the names of their competitors to advertise through AdWords, and some companies have taken quite a strong exception to this practice and have gone to court to appeal against it, and prevent Google from selling their brand name as a keyword.

Earlier, this month, Europe’s Court of Justice the highest legal authority in Europe has ruled in favour of Google in one such case.

The specific case being referred to was between two competitors who made temporary or portable cabins. The names of the companies concerned are PortaKabin and Primakabin respectively. Primakabin was using the words, Portakabin, Portacabin, Portokabin and Portocabin among its keywords to advertise on Google.

The competitor Portakabin has objected to this.

The judges have finally ruled that, companies, using the names of competitors as Internet Advertising keywords, is not an infringement of Trademark laws in the European Union.

This judgment will be a big victory for Google as it will indirectly boost the revenue they can generate through advertising.

This judgment also upholds another ruling passed earlier in a similar case between Louis Vuitton and Google. The court maintains that as long as the internet service provider is neutral about the content they display, there is no infringement of trademark laws.

The French Supreme Court where the case between Google and Louis Vuitton was first heard, has also sided with the ruling given by the European court according to sources from Google.

Sources from Louis Vuitton however, have claimed that the French Court has held Google ‘liable for the sale of trademarks as AdWords on the grounds of civil liability.’

Clearly it looks as though there will be some more debating required in such cases.


  • Kris says:

    If I walked into a store, asked the sales assistant about a Sony widescreen TV, and the sales assistant showed me the Sony TV, then recommended the Panasonic range of TVs (because he’s paid higher commission on those products)… is that trademark infringement?

    That’s the offline equivalent of what Google is doing.

    Someone asks Google about “Sony widescreen TVs”.. Google shows links to sites about Sony TVs and also shows a related sponsored link about Panasonic TVs, which pays them higher commission.

    As long as the ad text doesn’t include the word “Sony” in a misleading manner, I don’t see how any sane court could consider such use in keywords to be trademark infringement. If they did, then it would also have to apply to the offline scenario.

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  • Calvin A Lily says:

    Flowers, LLC and manager Hur Guler have been sued by, Inc. for alleged Trademark infringement. 1-800-Flowers claims that the defendant has engaged in trademark infringement by bidding on various keywords and purchasing sponsored ads using various search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing.
    It is Flowers, LLC position that consumers deserve the right to choose between any number of floral delivery options, and that placing a sponsored ad, which in no way uses the Plaintiff’s trademarks does not constitute infringement. The Internet is a shared marketing channel, and 1-800-flowers has made a concerted effort to reduce consumer choice and competition. Flowers, LLC intends to defend its legally justified position on its own behalf and on behalf of each other advertiser seeking fairness in the marketplace.