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Keyword advertising: Google held liable by French court

French trade mark registration n°1 261 772

In a first instance judgment issued on 12 December 2007, the Paris civil court held Google France liable in a dispute regarding trade mark use in connection with its Adwords program.

The plaintiff, the French Bedding Syndicate (Syndicat Français de la Literie), owner of the collective mark "Belle Literie" (pictured above) and eponymous domain names, was awarded a total of 50,000 euro in damages.

The trade mark was deemed famous by the judges. Evidence showed that when advertisers entered the word "literie" (bedding), Google's keywords suggestion tool returned many results, but among these only the term"belle" was associated in an expression to the word "literie".

The court considered that this keyword use of the expression "belle literie" was a trade mark use. According to the court, such use infringed the rights of the plaintiff because it allowed advertisers to benefit from advertising triggered by this expression, although they were not member of the Bedding Syndicate. Google was therefore held responsible for infringing a famous trade mark and usurpation of domain names.

Moreover, the heading “ '[c]ommercial links' is in itself misleading because it carries people on the internet to believe that there exists a bond of commercial nature between the sites appearing as a result from the search and those gathered under said heading", the court said.

Posted by: Frédéric Glaize @ 00.17
Tags: court decision, Domain names, France, Keyword advertising, Trade Mark,
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