Europe’s Court of Justice might have just thrown the doors wide open on highly fractious online advertising and search gaming: in a judgement, the court has confirmed that use of a competitor’s name as an Internet advertising keyword does not constitute a violation of European trademark law. The ruling may be the last stage in a batte between trademark holders and online search giant Google…and will almost certainly be a revenue boost for Google’s AdWords service and similar keyword-based online advertising sales.
The case in question involved the companies Primakabin and Portakabin, which manufacture and market temporary sheds and buildings: Primakabin used keywords like “portakabin” and mis-spelled variants “portacabin” in keywords it used with Google AdWords in order to draw users to Primakabin products when they searched for its competitor.
The EU ruling upholds a precedent set by a case brought against Google by Louise Vuitton, which went after Google claiming that searches for its brand name brought up ads for businesses offering counterfeit merchandise. In that case, Internet content services were found to be not infringing on trademarks so long as they were “neutral” about the content. The new ruling affirms that decision, funding that search engines may display ads that best correspond to keywords, and users of advertising services may use whatever keywords they like, within reason, without infringing on European trademark law.
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