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Europe court rules Google not violating trademark law

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [judgment materials; press release, PDF] Tuesday that Google [corporate website, JURIST news archive] did not violate trademark law by selling advertising linked to trademarked names. The court reasoned that Google was merely a platform for ads, clearing all search engines from trademark liability and protecting their main source of revenue. The luxury-goods group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) [corporate website] first brought suit four years ago accusing Google's AdWords [service website] system of infringing upon companies' trademarks by allowing advertisers, including competitors and those selling imitation or counterfeit products, to purchase advertising space when a user searches for a product or trademarked name. While the court found AdWords to be a legal "information society service," it charged advertisers to make it clear that their products are different than the trademarked keyword. Google responded that the judgment reinforced [press release] the "fundamental principle behind the free flow of information over the internet." Additionally, Google stated that it works with brand owners to remove links to websites selling counterfeit goods.

Tuesday's judgment follows an advisory opinion against LVMH [JURIST report] issued by the EJC last year after the case was referred by the Cour de Cassation [official website, in French], France's highest court. In a separate case, a French court in February ordered Internet auction house eBay to pay LVMH €200,000 ($275,000) in damages [JURIST report] for paying search engines to direct customers to counterfeit LVMH products. The court found that eBay registered names similar to Louis Vuitton with search engines knowing that consumers looking for counterfeit products would search using those terms and be led to auctions on eBay selling those goods. In 2008, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled [JURIST report] that eBay has no duty to actively monitor its site for counterfeit goods. Earlier in 2008, however, a French court ordered eBay to pay LVMH $63 million [JURIST report] for failing to prevent the sale of counterfeit luxury goods.

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