Saturday

28th May 2022

EU court's Google ruling leaves words up for sale

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Google did not contravene EU trademark rules by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords corresponding to their competitors' trademarks.

But in a nuanced decision on Tuesday (23 March), the Luxembourg-based judges also indicated firms should be allowed to challenge individual cases they deem inappropriate in national courts.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Revenue from AdWord sales makes up the bulk of Google's income (Photo: EUobserver)

The original lawsuit, taken by luxury products group LVMH, the makers of Dior perfume and Moet & Chandon champagne amongst other brands, was transferred to the EU's Court of Justice by France's highest appeals court.

It surrounds the sale of Google AdWords, a key source of revenue for the internet giant whose annual revenue tops €17 billion. Companies which purchase particular AdWords see their site listed in the "Sponsored Links" section of Google's main website when internet users enter a related search word.

The ruling means people searching for branded products will continue to be shown rival brands, but allows firms such as LVMH to challenge the sale of certain AdWords, if for instance they feel it aids counterfeiters.

Win-win?

Both sides claimed victory after the court's decision. Google said the ruling supported its preferred approach, allowing advertisers to buy competitors' keywords, but subject to Google restrictions blocking potential miscreants.

"The question before the court was whether advertisers should be allowed to choose keywords freely when reaching out to users on the Internet," Dr Harjinder Obhi, senior litigation counsel for the company, said on a blog posting after the ruling, adding that the right had been upheld.

LVMH also welcomed the court's decision. "We were looking for a clarification of the principles," the company's senior executive vice-president, Pierre Gode, told this website.

Mr Gode said it would now be much easier for national courts to rule on particular challenges, and would lead to greater harmonisation of decisions regarding EU trademark rules across the 27 member states.

Internet freedoms group la Quadrature du Net said the judges had upheld the notion that citizens's fundamental rights should not be superseded by European copyright laws.

"It is a positive decision. The court reasserts the limited liability of hosting services provided by the EU's eCommerce directive. When a company processes data, it is not liable for that information until it has been notified that it is unlawful," the group's Jeremie Zimmermann told EUobserver.

Gordon Brown

An example of how it is not only business competitors that are seeking to make use of the internet appeared separately on Tuesday, with a number of media outlets reporting the UK's Conservative party bought the AdWord "Gordon Brown" over the weekend.

The resulting "Sponsored Link," entitled: "The New Militant Tendency - Read about Unite's stranglehold on Gordon Brown's Labour Party," leads internet users to the Conservative party website.

With the outcome of UK national elections this summer set to be tight, both sides are turning to the internet to transmit their message to a maximum of voters, said analysts.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us