Today we talked about buying advertising online and one of the options was to buy an ad from Google so that your company appears under the “sponsored links” heading. I wanted to talk about some problems that Google has faced because of this service. In the Google France SARL and Google Inc. v Louis Vuitton case, the issue in the case was whether Google’s use of trademarks in the AdWords service was itself a trademark infringement.
In 2003 Vuitton became aware that when internet users searched terms containing its trademarks into Google, the search presented links to sites offering imitation versions of Vuitton’s products under the “sponsored links” heading. Also, advertisers could select words, not only which correspond to Vuitton’s trademarks, but also words indication imitation such as “fake” or “copy.” Vuitton brought proceeding against Google claiming that Google had infringed its trademarks.
Initially the French Courts found Google liable for trademark infringement, but Google appealed to the European Court of Justice (the ECJ). The main two issues in question were whether Google’s use of trademarks in its AdWords service without consent from the proprietor constitutes infringement, and whether Google could rely on the hosting exemption. The European Court of Justice ultimately did not find Google liable of trademark infringement and provided thorough reasoning for its decision.