When Your Trade Marks are Not Your Own


You may think that your trade marks are exclusively your own, but the European Court of Justice has recently ruled that using a trade mark as a ‘keyword’ to aid searches using a search engine which then displays advertisements featuring other brands does not breach the rights of the trade mark owner.  
However, the Court ruled that the owner of such a trade mark is allowed to prevent another business from advertising goods or services identical to those covered by the trade mark if the origin of the goods is not clear.
The case was brought by French design house Louis Vuitton, whose trade marks were used as key words to guide users of the Google search engine to websites not owned by the company or its authorised distributors and to display advertisements (‘sponsored links’) triggered by use of the keywords.
The crucial part of the Court’s decision was the ruling that the use as a keyword of a ‘sign identical with a trade mark’ and the organisation of advertisements displayed on the search page as a result of that keyword did not constitute use of the sign by the search engine provider where the search engine provider played no part in the creation of the keyword.
Where an advertiser creates keywords and stores them in such a way that the search engine provider has no knowledge of their use, the search engine provider is not liable for any misuse unless it becomes aware of this and then fails to take prompt action to prevent it.
We can help you ensure any website you operate complies with the applicable law and to protect your intellectual property rights to the extent the law allows.

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