Trademark Tales

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Did I just hear that advertisers in Europe may be banned from using their competitors’ names as keywords in their online advertising campaigns? Sadly, yes. A while ago, an international flower delivery company called Interflora had slapped a lawsuit on retail giant Marks & Spencer for trademark infringement by way of buying Interflora keywords and its misspellings. While the case is still on, an adviser to the highest European Court apparently suggested last week that a ban be placed on advertisers using their rivals’ names as keywords in their online advertising campaigns.

While Google is used to routinely knocking down lawsuits directed its way, this one could be a nail biter. The ramifications of such a law, should it be passed, could be disastrous for Google. A big piece of the online advertising pie is competitor search terms, and with that gone, Google possibly stands to lose millions of dollars’ worth of revenue each year.

Another big case that was on similar lines was LVMH (of the luxury brand Louis Vuitton) Vs. Google France where LVMH sued Google for allowing the use of its trademarked terms as keywords and in turn directing users to websites of counterfeit goods sellers. In a landmark judgment, the ruling went in favor of Google. Is that a peek into what’s to come? I hope so. It’ll ruin half the fun if I can’t watch two advertisers spar over more web space at each other’s expense. I’ll root for Google on this one. :)

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