Google sued for trademark infringement

Like most news reports this leaves more questions than answers but with the limited information I have it seems to me this ruling is very wrong in many aspects. Goggle should be free to advertise whoever they want. If I do a search for Avis why should they be barred from advertising for Hertz?

The next problem I see is that now every country can decide what’s right and what’s wrong and it would be impossible for google to comply with the laws of every single country.

That is not what the award is about. The problem is that the search was TARGETED to use the specific trademark to give links to competitors to the trademark’s owner. It would be like your telephone company, when you dial up Hertz, first inturrupt your phone call with an advertisement, not for any old rental car company that might include Hertz but specifically for rental car companies that are not Hertz. They would be making use of the Hertz trademark in order to target people with ads from companies that do not have the right to the Hertz trademark.

I agree that Google should be allowed to advertise whoever they want, and show payed ads however they want.

The French court disagrees though, and this is an ongoing problem. How does a web site comply with every law in every country that has internet access?

I think they simply can’t. Perhaps there needs to be international agreements to the effect that a web site must follow the rules of the country it registers at (or the country of the parent company, or some other method of defining a “home” country) and not have it subject to the laws of the whole damn world.

I do not think so. I think it is more similar to me walking into a travel agency and asking about Hertz and the travel agent saying “we got some good deals with Avis, you want to see them?” I see nothing wrong with what Google was doing. If you want to see only Hertz, then go to the Hertz website. If you are looking for pages which mention Hertz then there is nothing wrong with them advertising Avis. It’s just targetted advertising. Nothing wrong with that.

Maybe Google should just boycott France. I doubt this lawsuit would fly in the states.

Considering this and the eBay/Nazi decision, maybe the internet should just boycott France…

Perhaps, providing that Google clearly states that when I make a search, they’re actually providing advertisments, and not the adresses of the the sites I’m searching for.

Currently, it seems to me that the situation is similar to calling a phone company, asking them the phone number of Mr Jone’s company and being given the phone number of Mr Brown’s company instead, because Mr Brown paid for it to be done.

It’s not “now”. It has always been the case. Each country can indeed decide what’s right and what’s wrong, according to its own laws. Then, Google (or whoever else) has two choices :

-Ignore the ruling of whatever court from whatever country. If said country doesn’t forbid the local IPs from giving access to the internet sites of the condemned company (or if the local market isn’t really important for the company) and if the company doesn’t own significant assets which could be seized in the country, it might work

-Comply with the ruling. But, inevitably, at some point, the company won’t be able to comply with the contradicting laws of every possible country, as you said.

However, what is the alternative? Should Google (or whoever else) refuse to comply with any law? There’s no particular reason that Google should comply to the american law rather than to the french law, for instance, except that there could be more interests at stake by refusing to comply with rulings made by american courts than by french courts (Google assets could be seized, for instance).
Someone proposed that the companies should only comply with the laws and rulings of the country they’re situated. Fine. Now, assume that country X doesn’t forbid child pornography, for instance. I go there and provide online CP for a fee. Would you still want the american laws and court rulings not to apply to me and my company? Should american courts and law enforcement agencies ignore my activity? Would you support such a position?
With internet, we’re in a totally new situation. Beforehand, a company had to comply with local laws or stop doing business there. With internet, a company can provide a service which is illegal in the country where it is providing it, and without any drawbacks, as long as the company is situated in a country where it is legal.
Indeed, there would be a need for some sort of international agreement, but I can’t see it being possible. Even amongst western, democratic countries, there are way too different laws, rules, customs and even public perceptions for everybody to agree on any set of rule.

More directly, this is Company A using the trademarked slogan of Company B as an advertisement, which is a violation at the most basic level of trademark law. And Google is (presumably) knowingly assisting in the act.

If I use some other company’s trademarked slogan to advertise my business, I get sued. I lose the suit. End of story. If Bob’s advertising agency makes the commercial, after I’ve explained the plot in detail to them, they get sued too. They lose the suit too. End of story.

Why should it be any different for Google? It’s not a question of them not being allowed to advertise any company they want. It’s a question of them not being allowed to use a trademarked slogan to advertise any company they want.

I believe if this suit were brought in the US Google would have prevailed as they are not the proper target. Instead, the wrongful actor in this case is the company who contracted to Google to display their advertisement in connection with searches on its competitor’s keyphrase.

A more interesting situation arises if Google’s “topic match” advertising intuits that you’re looking for a French travel agency when you search for “Bourse de Vols” and displays an ad that was linked to the topic “French travel agency” (which Google has the technology to do, although I do not know if they’re doing it). In my opinion, this is no different than the travel agent who says “We don’t have anything from Hertz, but here’s the deals we have with Avis.”

I routinely turn down fares on United in favor of American because I have more miles on American and I like their service better (I’m tall and American has more footroom), but that doesn’t make it a trademark violation for my travel agent to suggest a fare on United.

Google ads are placed either above or to the right of search results, have a different background color than search results, and are marked as “Sponsored Links”. Google will provide the address of the site you’re looking for regardless of the ads.

I don’t quite get it. I thought the only problem with trademarks is where you used one and might be thought to be in some way related to the company that owns it. If google said 'the most relevant link searching for ‘pepsi’ is ‘coca-cola.com’ then I can see there might be a problem. But the links are pretty clearly adverts not search results.

For that matter, what if there’s a flaw in google’s ranking system? Or if most of the coke-related links really went to pepsi.com? Is it reasonable to assume that if you search for something, the site that comes up top of the rankings is owned by them? And google doesn’t even do that!

What am I missing?

If you don’t know how Google advertising works, go to google.com and type in air travel. You should see two pastel boxes with “Sponsored Links”, and then actual hits. The first hit (after the category hits) is Travelocity.com. Notice when you search for Travelocity, though, you don’t get any sposored links.

The situation in the lawsuit is if those advertising links did show up when you searched for Travelocity, and they went to Orbitz or Expedia.

I don’t know the particulars of the case, but I wonder if it is like this:

Say I search for “coca-cola” in google and a link for “7up” comes up. Might I believe, that because I searched for “coca-cola” and “7up” came up that the two were related? Perhaps not. But perhaps the argument is that since one is paying money to be associated with a Trademark that there is a likelihood of confusion by consumers that the paying company is, in fact, associated with that brand.

I’d be curious to read a bit more about it; it does seem to be an interesting argument. If one company spends millions of dollars and years and years of effort into building a particular mark why should a competitor be able to associate themselves with that brand simply by paying a fee to google?

clairobscur explained things with his usual lucidity. Bear in mind that this cannot be a French thing: AFAIK EU trade mark law would fully cover this issue, leaving no room for local French deviation. I’m a bit surprised that this wouldn’t apply at all according to U.S law. Aren’t the U.S. trademark owners just as eager to protect their trade marks from any possible kind of infringement?

Furthermore, issues such as these are being addressed in the WIPO. There are already several treaties in place which aim at removing such difference between major trading blocks, such as the EU and the U.S. There even is a Trade mark law treaty, which the U.S. has already become party to. France isn’t yet a party, though.