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Google Wins European Trademark Victory

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the kleenex-runs-scared dept.

Google 39

adeelarshad82 writes "A European court has ruled in Google's favor, saying that allowing advertising customers to use the names of other companies as search keywords does not represent a trademark violation. The court also went on to say that Google's AdWords program is protected by a European law governing Internet hosting services. Google's main line of defense was claiming that companies that want to extend trademark law to keywords are really interested in 'controlling and restricting the amount of information that users may see in response to their searches.' The decision is the first in a series of decisions from the court about how trademark rights can be used to restrict information available to users. Google is currently battling several trademark keyword cases in the US, including a case against Rosetta Stone, Inc."

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There. Another sensible judgment from Eu (1, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | about 4 years ago | (#31596178)

it is clear as day that we all, american and european alike, need to gather behind Eu in order to bring sense into this intellectual property insensibility.

Re:There. Another sensible judgment from Eu (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31596236)

There are always various degrees of sensibility.

On the one hand there are companies that try to monopolise common words and thus prohibit their use.

On the other hand there are companies mooching off of popular competitor brand names by advertising their products using these brands.

no (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 4 years ago | (#31596288)

the problem stems from people using trademarks that have become synonymous with some field of expertise. ie like, 'Mysql Development' mysql wouldnt go try to suppress people because they used mysql in phrases, but, you get the idea. what you are doing is irrelevant to company's business (even furthers it), doesnt cost them anything and whatnot. but some companies, like apple etc, try to suppress people, and lay claim to mere words. even if you are a grocery store selling apples.

Re:no (1)

pnewhook (788591) | about 4 years ago | (#31596742)

the problem stems from people using trademarks that have become synonymous with some field of expertise

But that's no different than saying say 'pass me a Kleenex' instead of 'pass me a tissue'. The brand has become so synonymous with the object that people treat them one and the same.

Most companies would kill to get that kind of brand recognition and free advertising.

Re:no (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 4 years ago | (#31596864)

yea, but some companies suppress that.

Re:no (2, Informative)

Jaydee23 (1741316) | about 4 years ago | (#31597578)

Companies have to act to protect their trademarks or they may lose them, it is known as genericization. Ironically, Google has this problem with people using the term "Googling"

http://inventors.about.com/b/2006/01/29/when-a-brand-name-becomes-generic-genericized-trademarks.htm [about.com]

"The word Kleenex is now commonly used to describe any soft facial tissue. However, Kleenex is the trademarked name of the soft facial tissue manufactured and sold by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation."

Re:no (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 4 years ago | (#31597884)

well, then its better to do away with trademarks and patents. for, doing otherwise, awarding ownership of words and phrases to private companies and individuals would be BEYOND stupid.

Re:There. Another sensible judgment from Eu (3, Insightful)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 4 years ago | (#31598952)

However, Trademark is far different than insanity that is patents and copyright at the moment. Trademarks are unique logo marks and trade names and you HAVE to defend them else they are null and void. It is supposed to protect your brand identity. Imagine if a company puts out a similar product with using your logo/mark or similar name however their product is crap and starts to ruin your brand name. This is what Trademark is suppose to protect and it works pretty well. i know that we have trademark agreements with several of their logos. They are basic rules, like we cannot use their logo to show endorsement, and they can't be larger than our company's logo and product name. But we are free to put "Premiere Partner with XYZ, Gold Partner with ABC," etc. We also have a couple trademarks that we use in particular builds of our open source software. Anyone is free to compile the code, but they can't use our trademarked images. We don't distribute those images in the source. Only the binaries we compile and support all have our logo on the splash screen so that our clients know it's our build and therefore covered under our support agreements. Likewise, we can't use the company's name or logo which we forked the product from to promote or declare our own.

I also agree with this ruling. It shouldn't be Google's responsibility. However if another company is using your trademark in their advertising with out consent or in a way that infringes on our brand, sue the advertiser.

Re:There. Another sensible judgment from Eu (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 4 years ago | (#31600962)

regardless of how different trademarks are, as can be seen from the apple example in which apple was trying to clamp down on a real chain that sells real apples, because the used a logo of a green apple that was bitten on one side, they also can be abused.

as i came to believe - it is beyond stupid to let anyone have monopoly/ownership of any idea, creation or logical construct.

Like TV (1)

dontPanik (1296779) | about 4 years ago | (#31596280)

This makes sense to me because companies can use each others names in TV commercials, Google ads seems like a sensible online analogy.

Re:Like TV (3, Informative)

beelsebob (529313) | about 4 years ago | (#31596374)

At least in the UK, companies *can't* use each others names in TV commercials. That's why things are commonly compared to "another leading brand".

Re:Like TV (2, Insightful)

dingen (958134) | about 4 years ago | (#31596494)

The difference is however that in the case of Google AdWords, the other brand doesn't have to be included in the ad itself, it can only be the keyword which triggers the ad to show up. The EU judge ruled that it is valid if McDonald's buys advertisements with the "Burger King" keyword, so that if users are looking for Burger King, the McDonald's ad will show up. This doesn't mean that Burger King will be actually meantioned in the ad, it's just the mechanism for triggering it.

Re:Like TV (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about 4 years ago | (#31596524)

This is the same in Canada. If they show the other leading brand they have to remove as many recognizable designs etc as they are able as well.

Re:Like TV (3, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#31596548)

They traditionally didn't, but AFAICT there's no prohibition against it. Note that supermarkets now make direct comparisons with each other.

Re:Like TV (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 4 years ago | (#31598152)

Indeed. Name dropping in advertising only occurs when there is cast-iron proof of the statements being made.

"314 lower prices than Asda, 275 less than Sainsbury's!" says a Tesco advertisement. At the bottom of the screen, you'll note a specific date is mentioned, and own-brand produce is not included in the price comparisons. On that day, this was true, and they have the figures to prove it. You won't get that with a "Daz is better than the leading brand!" style advert.

Re:Like TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31596556)

Not true, supermarkets are always directly comparing who has the cheapest products

Re:Like TV (1)

pnewhook (788591) | about 4 years ago | (#31596818)

Not true, supermarkets are always directly comparing who has the cheapest products

But price is completely verifiable so should be allowed to compare. What a commercial cannot do is say something like 'Aspirin is a complete piece of shit and can cause tumors. Use Tylenol instead!'

Re:Like TV (1)

dingen (958134) | about 4 years ago | (#31596952)

Lying in advertisements is never allowed, whether you're speaking about your own products or those by other companies.

At least, that's the law here in the Netherlands. You can't just go on TV and yell whatever you want to people.

Re:Like TV (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 4 years ago | (#31596992)

So... its not like the news?

Re:Like TV (1)

dingen (958134) | about 4 years ago | (#31597150)

I know you're being synical, but you're actually exactly right. Advertisers are bound to a lot more restrictions to what they can say and how they can say it than journalists, who can even purposely do illegal things to show it's effect to the audience.

Re:Like TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31597278)

Also the law in the UK, but blatently not the law in the USA. Fox News won a court ruling that the first amendment of the US constitution gives them the right to lie.

Re:Like TV (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 4 years ago | (#31597406)

You can. Although in this cases the other company might sue you if they find that your claims are bogus (which they almost certainly are).

Re:Like TV (1)

jrumney (197329) | about 4 years ago | (#31597452)

UK advertisers are free to mention competitors if they stick to the truth. In theory they have to stick to the truth anyway, but if they mention a competitor they can be sure that the competitor will go over their ad with a fine tooth comb looking for any hint of untruthfulness to complain about. That, and mentioning your competitor is free advertising for them.

Re:Like TV (1)

dingen (958134) | about 4 years ago | (#31598016)

That, and mentioning your competitor is free advertising for them.

Yeah, it seems to me that this is actually the biggest reason why you don't see a lot of comparisons with competitors in European advertisements. It's just a bad idea to remind people of the fact there are alternatives to the stuff you're trying to sell.

Re:Like TV (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about 4 years ago | (#31599028)

Advertising and libel laws prevent that, not trademark laws. Those laws say that any comparisons with competitors have to be fair and truthful, and they get round that by not mentioning their competitors by name.

Not all ads are like that. The supermarkets for example compare their prices with competitors and mention them by name. Because X really does charge more than Y for a particular product, they can mention it in their ads.

Google exonerated... but not buyers of AdWords (5, Informative)

vincefn (705639) | about 4 years ago | (#31596502)

The summary and the linked article are extremely incomplete ! Yes, Google was essentially exonerated from the charges - i.e. is not held responsible for the chosen adwords. But the buyers of adwords (the advertisers) can still be held responsible. To quote the WSJ article [wsj.com]: Google isn't liable for trademark infringement when it sells linked ads to a brand's competitor. The court held that the search giant is merely a host for ads and that it is an advertiser's responsibility to make clear if its product is different from that searched for.

The good thing is that google's service/business is acknowledged as a neutral one. But the advertisers can still be held responsible if they use the trademarked brand without the right to do so.

Re:Google exonerated... but not buyers of AdWords (1)

Jaydee23 (1741316) | about 4 years ago | (#31597488)

This is already covered in law (in the UK anyway, but I think elsewhere as well) under "Passing Off".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passing_off [wikipedia.org]

It is now clear that it is perfectly legal for me to use a competitors name as a search term as long as I don't (for example) make my website look like my competitors.

Re:Google exonerated... but not buyers of AdWords (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | about 4 years ago | (#31598510)

But the advertisers can still be held responsible if they use the trademarked brand without the right to do so.

Only if they use the trademark in a way that misleads consumers into believing the ad is somehow related to the trademark. You are generally fine using someone else's trademarks so long as there is no confusion over what the ad is for.

Ah yes (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | about 4 years ago | (#31596576)

I wonder if Google's reputation for fighting the good fight ever plays a part in influencing their court battles. Judges are human beings after all, and while trying to be as impartial as humanly possible is their job, subconsciously some of them may want to reward one of the very few giant corporations out there that doesn't act like a sociopathic criminal.

Re:Ah yes (2, Interesting)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 4 years ago | (#31596768)

From reading way to many decisions of the European Court lately, I doubt that. Judging by the style of those decisions, those guys there are more machine than human - long, exceedingly dry, scholarly analyses on usually a very solid legal-theoretical basis. I think they do a pretty good job in the IP field. An influence by reputation would be so subtle that it is virtually undetectable. I'll have a look at that decision later - gotta read it sooner or later anyway.

premium rate call scams (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | about 4 years ago | (#31597612)

It's a well-known thing in the United Kingdom that British Telecom do not try very hard to crack down on certain premium rate call scams, even if they are illegal... now, it's certainly not BT's fault that some firm is using the telecommunications network to run a scam, but the huge profits directed towards the scammer /and/ British Telecom should be returned to the victim of a scam.

Similarly, I have no problem not considering Google responsible for someone trying to abuse its service... as long as they return all profits gained as a result of the abuse. If they keep one cent, they are complicit.

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