by Mike Masnick
Tue, Sep 22nd 2009 8:52pm
It seems like it should be common sense that Google isn't violating any trademark laws because some of its customers buy ads using keywords from other's trademarks. Trademark is about consumer protection -- keeping people from getting confused and buying one product believing it's made by someone else. It's only a recent phenomenon that trademark holders have tried to stretch and extend trademark to mean they get to control all uses of it and shut down any use they don't like. But having ads for competing products show up when someone's looking for a brand seems like perfectly reasonable competition. Still, luxury brands, such as LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey), Tiffany, L'Oreal and others keep bringing lawsuits. LVMH won a case against Google in France, but that case moved up to the European Court of Justice, and senior judge there has now stepped in and said that selling ads shouldn't be trademark infringement, though a full decision is still a few months (at least) away. There's also an odd caveat: "Google could be held liable if brand owners could show that Google's ads had damaged their trademarks." What, exactly, does that mean? I'm guessing it's something similar to the already troubling "dilution" standard used in the US, but it seems impossibly vague and open to interpretation (and countless lawsuits).
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