Another Bad French Ruling Against Google Over Trademarked Adwords
from the this-again? dept
It’s amazing that after all these years, we’re still seeing these types of lawsuits — with these types of results. It involves the question of whether or not a company can buy an AdWords advertisement on Google using keywords that are trademarked by a competitor — and then, secondarily, if this is trademark infringement, whether or not Google is liable. I have trouble seeing how the answer to the first question is even a yes, but French courts have repeatedly said yes not just to the first one, but to the second question as well. This time Google is being fined hundreds of thousands of euros for allowing certain trademarked words to have advertisements run against them.
It’s hard to see how this makes any sense at all. First, unless the ads are designed to confuse someone, there should be no question that ads against a competitor’s keywords are perfectly legal. There’s no customer confusion (the point of trademark law). It’s no different than having your product placed on the grocery store shelf next to competing products, or (as is quite common in supermarkets these days) having a coupon print out for your product when you buy a competing one. Claiming this is trademark infringement is just a weak attempt to stifle competition by brands that don’t want to compete.
That said, even if you somehow think that this is trademark infringement, it’s an even bigger stretch to then pin the liability on Google. The actual party doing the “infringing” would be whoever bought and created the advertisement. Going after Google is a Steve Dallas defense: going after the biggest company that, tangentially, is involved just because it has the biggest bank account. Sure, Google makes money from the ads, but that shouldn’t create liability any more than the guy who sells the paints that are used to paint a trademark-infringing billboard is liable for what’s painted. Like the paint seller, Google is just a tool provider and has nothing to do with the content. Unfortunately, this bit of common sense still hasn’t made it into the French court system.