Sunday, February 06, 2005

Oui Oui Est Non Non For Google

I've been saying this could be a big problem for Google.

From Cnet Google loses trademark case in France.

A French court on Friday ruled against Google in a trademark infringement case brought by Louis Vuitton Malletier, in the latest legal setback to the search giant overseas.

The Paris District Court has sanctioned Google and its French subsidiary from selling search-related advertisements against trademarks owned by the luxury fashion designer, which sued the search giant in early 2004. The court charged Google with trademark counterfeiting, unfair competition and misleading advertising. Google was ordered to pay $257,430 (200,000 euros).

The ruling comes on the heels of another French court order against Google, in a case brought by European chain Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts. In that lawsuit, the court said Google infringed on Le Meridien's trademarks by allowing the hotel chain's rivals to bid on keywords of its name and then appear prominently in those related search results.

Both lawsuits have hinged on Google's signature keyword-advertising system, Adwords, which pairs text ads with related search results. For example, a Nike ad appears after a search for running shoes. Through the system, Google allows marketers to bid for such search-related keywords, including common branded and trademarked terms.

The negative rulings could hamper the company's advertising practices--at least in Western Europe, where the courts have been favorable to trademark owners. Google derives the lion's share of its revenue from online advertising.

There's a way brands and trademark owners will be able to control traffic to their site. A way the user can completely bypass a search engine. Will the search engines listen then?

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