French Courts Fine eBay For Buying Typo Keywords

from the oh-come-on dept

For years, various luxury brands have been furious that others can buy text keyword advertising based on their trademarked terms, leading to a series of lawsuits. In most place, the courts have realized that just buying a trademarked term as a keyword alone is not infringing on someone's trademark. France, however, is the one exception, having ruled against Google. Now, it's also ruled against eBay for supposedly having ads that pointed to eBay whenever anyone searched on a typo/misspelling of any of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy). Apparently, in France, you're not even allowed to misspell a trademarked brand name without official permission...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 10:54pm

    One more reason to keep eating Freedom Fries.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 11:00pm

    I just bought the "Visit France" adword. It will redirect people to this Youtube Video.

    http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmy9R_WtPbg

    It makes perfect sense.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 11:08pm

    That's strange. Isn't France supposed to... you know... surrender?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 11:26pm

    It has nothing to adwords and everything to do with Google and Ebay being American companies.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:07am

    damn, don't swear at anyone in France, FCUK may sue you!

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    David T, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:32am

    Alternative motives...?

    I can't help but wonder if these anti-tech rulings in France aren't the result of cultural rage. The French establishment seem resistant to anything that changes the way people do things on a fundamental level.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 4:51am

    Re:

    nice one

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 5:00am

    spellchedker FTW

    Soon, the person at the keyboard will be subject to fine for misspelling the trademarked term.

     

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  9.  
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    DB, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 5:30am

    Explain to me ...

    Why exactly is it that Google or Ebay should be able to make more money than most countries by selling someone else's name?

     

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  10.  
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    taoareyou (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    A thought

    If Google and eBay don't like the way France rules, then they can certainly just block all French activity. No more Google traffic to French business, no more French stores run out of eBay...etc. If you don't like the rules of the game, don't play. I'm sure France won't mind. Or can they sue you for NOT doing business with them?

     

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  11.  
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    taoareyou (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 5:33am

    Re: Explain to me ...

    If my name was "Tao" does that mean I own "Oat"?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:09am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ2np7R-Uwg

    Going to buy the "visit America" keywords and link it here

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:11am

    Re: Fries, just plain fries

    Yes, now on that topic I would like to point out that 'French Fries' were in the first place never French. It's only the Belgians who can make sensible fries. So, for my part I'm quite happy that we use anything but French in it. However, it still remains quite a stretch to call them 'freedom' fries, given the politics involved. I wonder how they call them in Iraq ?

     

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  14.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    One of our client's name is Dr. Teh. The practice is even called that, so it probably is trademarked. Douse that mean I'm not allowed to use the word "the"?

     

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  15.  
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    Hulser (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:22am

    Re: Explain to me ...

    Why exactly is it that Google or Ebay should be able to make more money than most countries by selling someone else's name?

    For the simple reason that there's no law that says they can't. Nor should there be. You're apparently under the false impression that the purpose of trademark law is for a company to weild absolute control over their their name and to prevent anyone from making a profit from any use of that name. This may be what many companies want people to believe, but it's quite false. The true purpose of trademark is for consumer protection. It's so that a consumer can be assured that if someone is selling a product with a trademark that the product is really associated with the trademark's company. One company simply referring to another company's trademark is not a violation of this purpose. Are you seriously suggesting that it should be?

     

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  16.  
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    someone who actually knows what he's talking about, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:42am

    Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    no, the purpose of trademark law is to prevent anyone from using that name, or any similar name, to conduct any similar course of business.

    if ebay is buying up misspellings of louis vuitton marks, and then linking them to unauthorized auctions (usually they're fake gear), it's trademark infringement. plain and simple.

     

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  17.  
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    Dementia (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:50am

    Re: Explain to me ...

    They aren't making money by selling someone else's name. They are paying to have searches linked to their ads when the searched term is someone else's trademark. It's like running a search on google for Ford and having a listing for Chevy show up in the results.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 7:17am

    Re:

    "Freedom Fries" are quite possibly the best summation of the American condition that has ever existed. And you wonder why people want to bomb you.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Stuart, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 7:27am

    Re: Re:

    People always have huge resentments built up on those on the top of the heap. It has been that way throughout history. Nothing to see here. Move along.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    Keyword: A word or group of words used to retrieve and index documents in an information system such as a search engine or catalog.

    Trademark law: Includes the right to defend someone using your name to sell a product but does not give John who sells pants the ability to sue Jon who sells automobiles. Trademark law allows someone to defend their specific mark from use in the same or very similar business.

    In this case LVMH should be going after those selling the fake goods, not someone for linking to those fake goods. Ebay bought or used those keywords to help better index its site. It is LVMH's responsibility to go after the people selling the fake goods, you know the ones ACTUALLY doing the infringing. Or perhaps maybe someone might accidentally misspell the name(how dare they do that) and ebay recognized that a lot of people were misspelling certain things in the name and decided to buy those keywords to increase its standings in google or other search engines when someone searched for that misspelling. So no just buying a keyword is NOT trademark infringement, selling goods you are claiming to be an LVMH product is. Something ebay is NOT doing. Or should sites be sued for not policing everything and anything done on their sites because the original company would rather not deal with defending its own trademark.

     

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  21.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 7:50am

    CAN WE REMOVE FRANCE FROM the net NOW?

    yea lets just stop doing business with anything french.
    any french website never visit it

    WOOT you go ahead keep your culture
    you keep it cause you cant compete otherwise

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:12am

    Re: Re:

    "'Freedom Fries' are quite possibly the best summation of the American condition that has ever existed."

    Looks like the French are getting that condition based on these rulings. If recent French military history is an indicator, I would say "Freedom Fries" was a thank you to the French for not joining us.

    "And you wonder why people want to bomb you."

    Jealousy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Hulser (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    no, the purpose of trademark law is to prevent anyone from using that name, or any similar name, to conduct any similar course of business.

    By my reading, you've essentially paraphrased my description of the purpose of trademark. If you're saying that the "similar course of business" clause is somehow a critical distinction between what I said and what you did, I don't see how that is relevant to the issue.

    if ebay is buying up misspellings of louis vuitton marks, and then linking them to unauthorized auctions (usually they're fake gear), it's trademark infringement. plain and simple.

    eBay is not presenting itself as Lois Vuitton, so how can this be a trademark violation? A moron in a hurry would know that eBay is not LV. Now, if someone is selling fake LV merchandise, there's your trademark infringement. But how is eBay, a third party, responsible for the actions of the counterfeiters?

     

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  24.  
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    Hulser (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    While I agree with your overall point that eBay is not infringing on trademark, the counterfeiters are, I have to disagree with this statement...

    Trademark law: Includes the right to defend someone using your name to sell a product

    Again, I think that we're in agreement on the underlying principles, but literally there's nothing wrong or illegal with using someone else's trademarked name in the course of selling your product. It happens all of the time. When Target puts out a generic brand, they'll put "Compare to XYZ brand" right on the box. When Company X makes a commercial pointing out that their products are better than Company Y, they can use Company Y's trademark to get the point across. The key is you can use a trademark in the course of selling your product -- regardless of factors like the similarity of the business in the marketplace -- as long as a moron in a hurry wouldn't think that the actual company was selling the product instead of a counterfeiter.

     

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  25.  
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    someone who actually knows what he's talking about, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    the third parties are selling the fake LV gear on ebay... and we both agree that should be only the third party's fault. ebay is going out and buying the advertising. ebay is not a passive conduit in this respect. they're actively doing something to attract people to the almost-always infringing material. on top of that, they're often informed that the gear is clearly infringing, and they repeatedly don't care (the VERO program is a joke).

     

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  26.  
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    Hulser (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    ebay is not a passive conduit in this respect. they're actively doing something to attract people to the almost-always infringing material.

    eBay is buying ads from Google based on keywords (misspelled brand names). eBay is then almost certainly not pointing to specific auctions or sellers, but instead showing the results of a search based on the correctly-spelled brand name. So, no...they're not a "passive conduit", but we're not talking about copyright safe harbors here; we're talking about trademark, so their passivity is irrelevant. And personally, I don't see anything wrong with this nor do I think it's illegal.

    If LV thinks that eBay is not doing enough to remove counterfeiters from the site, then this is the problem that should be addressed. Not something as tangential as misspelled keywords.

     

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  27.  
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    someone who actually knows what he's talking about, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    the "passive conduit" rationale is what is used to remove liability from third parties when an infringer uses their services. it's a very strong argument too.

    the fact that it doesn't work in trademark law isn't really the point... (mike advocates it for virtually all third party infringement cases). the point is that ebay is not a passive conduit in this case, so they should be liable.

     

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  28.  
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    ebay selling tips, Feb 17th, 2010 @ 8:37am

    eBay

    ebay's advertising is bonkers, stolen caravans, black slaves - what ever next!

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2010 @ 9:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Explain to me ...

    I think you are missing the point. If someone is looking to buy a Louis Vuitton bag, it is perfectly reasonable to assume they may misspell the search string as Lois Vuiton or any number of other similar variants, not because they are looking to buy counterfeit goods, but simply because they don’t know exactly how to spell it.

    Should the person looking to sell a legit LV bag on eBay really be forced to title it “Louis Vuitton Bag – Lois Vuitton Bag – Louis Vuiton Bag – Lois Vuiton Bag” simply to cover possible misspellings? Or does it make sense for eBay to realize that mistakes like this happen and redirect the search?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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