Home > News > Web
Marketing Breaking News
Web Marketing Breaking News
Google Found Guilty in French Trademark Case
Posted on October 17, 2003
PARIS - A French court has ruled
against Internet search powerhouse Google Inc in an
intellectual property rights case that could have far
reaching technological and financial implications for
Web search firms, who process tens of millions of queries
The civil court in Nanterre, near
Paris, fined privately held Google 75,000 euros for
allowing advertisers to link text Internet advertisements
to trademarked search terms and gave the company 30
days to stop the practice, common at Internet search
The ruling, handed down earlier this week, is believed
to be the first in which the owner of a trademarked
term successfully sued an Internet search service over
the practice of allowing advertisers to use protected
terms in text ads.
If it was upheld on appeal and validated
in other countries the decision could force the search
services to pre-screen search terms for trademarks before
letting advertisers use them.
It was not the first time the French
legal system has taken aim at the Internet. In November
2000, a French judge ordered Internet giant Yahoo! to
bar people in France from accessing sites selling Nazi
memorabilia in a case that sparked a transatlantic legal
Timothy Koogle, the company's one-time
chief executive, was acquitted earlier this year of
charges that he condoned war crimes by selling the items
on Yahoo sites.
In the trademark case, the owner
of the name "Bourse des vols" (Market for
Flights), an Internet travel agent, wanted Google to
stop allowing competitors to include "Bourse des
vols" as a term that would generate an advertisement
and link to their own site that Internet searchers could
Google had refused, arguing its French
arm was not responsible, that the term bourse des vols
was not protected by a valid trademark and that the
issue was technological and could not be resolved.
But the court found for the plaintiff
on all three issues, said Fabrice Dariot, who owns the
trademark to "Bourse des Vols" and sued Google.
Dariot said that while the fine was small, the decision
could be important.
"It was as though the Internet
and the real world were two different worlds, but this
ruling shows that there is only one world," he
said in an interview. "It shows that the Internet
will have to respect intellectual property rights."
The result of the decision would
be that any time the term "Bourse des Vols"
was typed in, only ads for that specific site could
be posted with the search results, Dariot said.
Mountain View, California-based Google
said it would appeal the decision and declined further
the decision was made on an enforceable basis, Google
will have to make the changes while the appeal is underway
or face fines of up to 1,500 euros for each infraction,
Editor's Note: This has been the
complaint about Google for quite some time. While attempting
to gain a foothold on the PPC market dominated by Overture,
they went to an "instant approval" basis for
account - whereas Overture makes each client go through
a strict approval process where every listing is reviewed.
Overture does not allow trademark
infringement - and the French court's decision could
have a large international impact.