The Highest Court In The EU Says Its OK For Google To Sell Trademarked Keywords

The European Union highest court, The European Court of Justice, issued an “interim legal opinion” that Google does not infringed on trademark holders rights, by allowing advertisers to buy keywords of registered trademarks.

As we told you back in May,  Google announced it would allow advertisers to buy the trademark keywords of its competitors.

Also In May, Google announced that not only could competitors buy ads under trademarked keywords, but that they could even use the trademark, in the verbiage of the ad.

In this case, Louis Vuitton sued Google saying that Google sold ads under search results for Louis Vuitton, to companies marketing counterfeit or replica goods of Vuitton.

The Advocate General, Poiares Maduro, said “Google has not committed a trademark infringement by allowing advertisers to select, in AdWords, keywords corresponding to trademarks”.

The Advocate General went on to note that the use of the trademarks is limited to the selection of keywords which is internal to AdWords and concerns only Google and the advertisers. When selecting keywords, there is thus no product or service sold to the general public. Such a use cannot therefore be considered as being a use made in relation to goods or services identical or similar to those covered by the trade marks.

The mere display of relevant sites in response to keywords is not enough to establish a risk of confusion on the part of consumers as to the origin of goods or services. Internet users are aware that not only the site of the trade mark owner will appear as a result of a search in Google’s search engine and sometimes they may not even be looking for that site.

Today’s “opinion” will now be taken into account by a full panel of EU judges, whose ruling is expected late this year or early next year.

The full panel of judges follow the Advocate General’s opinion in 80% of the time.

Obviously this would be a huge victory for Google in the EU.

Google still has several cases pending in the US, on this same issue with some lower courts already ruling against Google.

You can read about some of the US cases we are tracking here, here, and here

Yahoo has also been sued on this issue,  but won the only decided case.

Of course to domainers the question that comes to mind is why can Google sell ads under trademarked terms but if an ad for a trademarked term, shows up on a parking page, we lose the domain?


  1. says

    Hello Mike,

    The answer to your question of why, “Of course to domainers the question that comes to mind is why can Google sell ads under trademarked terms but if an ad for a trademarked term, shows up on a parking page, we lose the domain?” Because the court system and its minions have always been able to be bought by big money. If you have enough money in this and any other country you can literally get away with murder.


  2. Mike says

    I agree totally with Jeff. That was my first thought also.

    Honestly, I don’t think Google should be allowed to sell keywords with trademarks. It does dilute the trademark when a trademark is used for all kinds of searches.

  3. Steve M says

    ” … why can Google sell ads under trademarked terms but if an ad for a trademarked term, shows up on a parking page, we lose the domain?”


  4. Domaineering and Trademarks says

    As identified by Prof. William Lorenz, “Domaineering” is the web-based marketing business of acquiring and monetizing Internet domain names purposely focusing on their use specifically as an advertising medium rather than primarily speculating on domains as intellectual property investments for resale as in domaining where generating advertising revenue is considered more of a bonus while awaiting a sale. In essence, the domain names function as virtual Internet billboards with generic domain names being highly valued for their revenue generating potential derived from attracting Internet traffic hits. Revenue is earned as potential customers view pay per click ( PPC ) ads or the Internet traffic attracted may be redirected to another website. Hence, the domain name itself is the revenue generating asset conveying information beyond just functioning as a typical web address. As the value here is intrinsically in the domain name as an information carrying vehicle and not in a website’s products or services, these domains are developed for advertising, ( i.e, “parked” ), and not into “conventional” websites. As with traditional advertising, domaineering is part art and part science. Often to be the most effective as an advertising tool, the domain names and their corresponding landing pages must be engineered or optimized to produce maximum revenue which may require considerable skill and keen knowledge of search engine optimization ( SEO ) practices, marketing psychology and an understanding of the target market audience, including demographics and buying habits. Domaineering generally utilizes a firm offering domain parking services to provide the sponsored “ad feed” of a word or phrase searched for thus creating a mini-directory populated largely by advertisers paying to promote their products and services under a relevant generic keyword domain. Occasionally content is added to develop a functional mini-website. Ethical domaineers contend that their product, i.e., “domain advertising”, is a bona fide offering of goods or services in and of itself which provides rights to and legitimate interests in the generic domains they use. This serves as a rebuttal or defense in addressing occasional spurious accusations of cybersquatting on trademarks. Domaineers and some of those who advertise online using generic keywords believe domaineering provides a useful, legal and legitimate Internet marketing service while opponents of domaineering decry the practice as increasing the ubiquitous commercialization of the world wide web. Domaineering aka “domain advertising” is practiced by both large organizations which may have registered hundreds or even thousands of domains to individual entrepreneurial minded domaineers who may only own one or a few.

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