French Court Misunderstands Purpose Of Trademarks; Says No To Google

from the not-a-good-sign... dept

While an American judge figured out that the purpose of trademarks is to avoid confusing users, and not to give full control over a trademark to a company, it appears that a French court hasn’t quite figured that out. So, in what appears to be the opposite of the US decision saying Google could sell ads based on searches on Geico’s trademarked keywords, a French court is telling Google they cannot trigger an ad if someone searches on a trademarked phrase. This is, first, a misunderstanding of the intentions of trademark law, but it’s also bad news for Google — who has already said they plan to appeal. So, is it illegal in France to put two competing brands on the same shelf next each other, such that if someone goes looking for one product, they might see the other?

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Comments on “French Court Misunderstands Purpose Of Trademarks; Says No To Google”

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Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Store Shelves

So, is it illegal in France to put two competing brands on the same shelf next each other, such that if someone goes looking for one product, they might see the other?

While I agree that U.S. trademark law is about confusion, as Kevin said, perhaps French law is different (not too surprising).

Also, I’m getting kind of tired of that store shelf analogy. Can you show me one instance where a store sells placement next to a competing product? I know that stores sell end caps, but that’s position in the store, not next to a competing product. Stores also may sell space based on shelf height (eye-level shelves are preferable), but I don’t know if they actually sell that position or just put the products they want to sell there.

Competing products are more likely placed next to each other in stores to keep related product categories together. How confusing would it be for a customer to ask “Where’s the beer?” and have a store employee say “Miller is on Aisle 1, Bud on Aisle 2, Heineken on Aisle 16 and the rest on Aisle 5.”

If you can’t cite one case of competitive position on store shelves being sold, would you please find another analogy? If you can cite one, I’ll have learned something new.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Store Shelves

Well, the more specific analogy is where they do sell coupons based on products. Most supermarkets now do this in two ways. Right near a specific product they have a device that spits out coupons for a competing product. The other is that on checkout, the cashier prints out coupons for products competing with the ones you just bought.

Seems like a pretty definite analogy.

Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Trademarks & Advertising

I’m actually kind of torn about this. On the one hand, I agree that trademarks are about preventing confusion. A competitor can certainly use a trademark when comparing his product with another.

On the other hand, if a competitor has to buy ads which use a competitor’s trademark (or even non-trademarked product names), I think that’s kind of lame. If they can’t build their own buzz, just buying somebody’s trademark to flog a product makes me think less of that product.

It may not be illegal, but it gives me a bad impression.

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