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Google Changes European AdWords Trademark Policy

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

10 August 2010

Google will, from next month, allow some advertisers in Europe to use third party trademarks as keywords to generate advertisements under AdWords, even if they do not own that trademark or have explicit approval from the trademark owner to use it.

In March this year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that Google had not infringed trademark law by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords corresponding to their competitors’ trademarks.

Legal proceedings were initiated in France against Google by a number of trademark owners, as to the legality of the use, in its AdWords advertising system, of keywords corresponding to trademarks, which can lead to the display of ads for sites of, such as, resellers, sellers of similar goods and sites offering counterfeit versions of the products covered by the trademark.

The ECJ ruling allowed Google to continue selling ads linked to searches for brand names, thus protecting a vital revenue stream for the company. However, the ruling also stipulated that advertisers themselves cannot, by using such keywords, arrange for Google to display ads which do not allow internet users easily to establish from which undertaking the goods or services covered by the ad in question originate.

Google has said that its new policy has taken account of that ruling. In Europe, it will not prevent the use of trademarks as keywords, but, from September 14, trademark owners will be able to complain about the selection of their trademark by a third party if they feel that it leads to a specific ad text which confuses users about the origin of the advertised goods and services.

It confirmed that it will then conduct a limited investigation, and if it is found that the ad text does confuse users as to the origin of the advertised goods and services, Google will remove the ad.

Under the policy, Google has said that its permitted advertisements will include, but are not limited to ads: using a trademarked term in a descriptive or generic way, such as not in reference to the term as a trademark; for competing products or services; for reviews about a product or service corresponding to the trademark; for resale of the trademarked goods or services; and for the sale of components, replacement parts, or compatible products corresponding to a trademark.

Google believes that its “goal is to provide our users with the most relevant information, whether from search results or advertisements, and we believe that users benefit from having more choice. Our policy aims to balance the interests of users, advertisers, and trademark owners.”

In a separate change, Google has announced that it will realign its policy in Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland with that in the United States allowing certain advertisers to use third party trademarks in the text of their advertisements from September 14 this year.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining the new possibilities that offshore e-commerce open up for business, and analysing the offshore jurisdictions that have led the way in offering professional e-commerce regimes for international business, with a particular focus on e-gaming, is available in the Lowtax Library at and a description of the report can be seen at
TAGS: court | business | trademarks | Ireland | commerce | law | intellectual property | United Kingdom | internet | e-commerce | Canada | trade | European Union (EU) | Europe

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