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EU trademark ruling could have implications for AdWords

Mar 29, 2011
Recent recommendations from officials in the judicial branch of the European Union government could mean big changes for how businesses handle their online advertisements.

The judicial discussion arose out of a row between competitors in the same business, where Google AdWords allows for buying keywords that include trademarks for competing businesses.

Niilo Jaaskinen, the EU's advocate general, advised that businesses should have the ability to prevent competitors from using such trademarked words as keywords in their advertisements.

"The trademark proprietor has the right to prohibit the use of the keyword in advertising by the competitor in question," Jaaskinen said in a non-binding statement.

Should the high courts of Brussels follow through with Jaaskinen's recommendations, the move could have far-reaching impacts on the online advertising sphere, particularly how businesses use AdWords in highly competitive sectors.

The European Court will not, however, make a decision on the ruling for another two months' time, according to barrister Douglas Campbell, speaking to Marketing Magazine, though the advocate general's advice is followed about eight of 10 times.

If the court rules following the advocate's opinion, it would be somewhat of a turn from a previous ruling not holding Google liable for selling competitor trademarks as keywords.

A ruling just last year found "Google has not infringed trademark law by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords corresponding to their competitors' trademarks."

However, as Campbell noted, even if buying up competitors' trademarks is still legal under that ruling, "nobody is going to buy trademark keywords if the trademark proprietor is just going to keep suing them for using them."


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