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ECJ advisory opinion finds Google ad system does not violate trademark law

[JURIST] Google's AdWords, a system that causes advertisements to be shown alongside natural search results on Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive], does not violate EU trademark law, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] said in an advisory opinion [materials; press release, PDF] Tuesday. AdWords allows advertisers, for a fee, to select keywords that, when searched by a Google user, bring up a link to the advertiser's website. The suit, originally filed in France by Louis Vuitton [corporate website], alleges that AdWords infringes upon companies' trademarks by allowing advertisers, including competitors and those that sell imitation or counterfeit products, to use the trademarked names of brand name manufacturers and sellers. The case was referred to the ECJ by the Cour de Cassation [official website, in French], France's highest court. In stating that Google did not violate any trademarks through its use of AdWords, Advocate General Poiares Maduro [official profile] reasoned in part that most Internet users would not be surprised or confused to see links to products similar to those they searched for. The opinion did not, however, rule out holding Google liable where companies can show that the use of their trademark caused actual damage to the company. As an advisory opinion, Tuesday's opinion is non-binding, and the court will issue its judgment at a later date.

Google is currently engaged in other legal proceedings involving intellectual property. On Friday, the US Department of Justice [official website] filed a statement of interest [JURIST report] urging the US Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] to reject a settlement offer in a case involving Google's book search. The case originated when two lawsuits were brought against Google by the Authors Guild, an advocacy group seeking to preserve copyright protection for authors, and by other plaintiffs including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [organization website], McGraw-Hill, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites] over Google's book-scanning initiative [Google Book Search website]. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, which was reached [JURIST report] last October, Google would pay $125 million to authors and publishers of copyrighted works. In return, Google would be allowed to display online up to 20 percent of the total pages of a copyrighted book, and would offer users an opportunity to purchase the remainder of any viewed book.

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