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by Stephen Logan on 13th July 2010
The European high court has judged that the use of trademarks by competitors within Google organic and AdWords results is legal.
If you are looking to use a brand name or trademark within your Google AdWords this latest ruling might well be good news. The European Court of Justice has ruled that trademark infringement is fine, as long as it isn’t used in a way that might confuse consumers into believing you are representing the trademark holder.
Confused? Well, here is what the court had to say “The trade mark proprietor cannot oppose that use of the sign, identical with its mark, if that use is not liable to cause detriment to any of the functions of that mark.” [Source: Bidding for rivals' AdWords can be infringement, sometimes | The Register].
Whether this ruling has cleared things up entirely is still debatable; Google may still use discretion to prevent the use of certain terms as it has done in the past for example. However, they certainly aren’t under any pressure – in the European courts at any case – to do so.
The case, brought about by Portacabin, is one of long line of similar trademark tussles to land in front of a judge. It also follows the trend set by companies such as Louis Vuitton and L’Oreal, in failing to get a judgement against the search engine. Leaving Google free to go on hosting AdWords adverts without the risk of legal challenges.
Adverts using competitor names and terms that are intended to mislead consumers will clearly still contravene trademark laws though; something which Google will have to continue to monitor. Google though appear to have been largely exonerated from any direct responsibility for the content they host. This should see far looser restrictions on the content of AdWords PPC ads, certainly as far as trademarks are concerned.
Whether this will make it easier for you to get your PPC adverts onto Google will remain to be seen. However, for now, the search giant can continue to host adverts based on relevance, whether they used trademarked terms or not – just as long as they don’t overstep the mark.