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Google loses TM dispute in France

Report that Le Meridien won its case, appeal to follow

     
8:15 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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cnet [news.com.com]

A French court has ruled that Google must refrain from using the trademarks of European resort chain Le Meridian Hotels and Resorts to trigger keyword ads.

On Dec. 16, a Nanterre court in France ruled that Google infringed on the trademarks of Le Meridien by allowing the hotel chain's rivals to bid on keywords of its name and appear prominently in related search results. Le Meridien had sued Google's French subsidiary on Oct. 25 after failing to reach an amicable agreement, according to court documents.

8:44 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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this is what I hate about the Internet. Too many different laws and a global company has to obey them all. Like not selling Mein Kampf or other nazi stuff in Germany.
8:45 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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as an american....do i even have to tell you what im thinking?

wouldn't the french company lose more money by hiring lawyers than its worth to win the case?

8:59 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"as an american....do i even have to tell you what im thinking?"

geico tried it too though, just the federal courts shut them down

9:40 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Why doesn't google kick Le Meridian Hotels out of its index completely. Return no pages and no ads for that search term. It might help disuade others from such lawsuits in future.

Though perhaps Googles 'do no evil' would preclude such sweet revenge?

10:06 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"Why doesn't google kick Le Meridian Hotels out of its index completely. Return no pages and no ads for that search term."

i kind of agree but beleive the next thing you know every country is going to have 100+ words that google has to kick out and i dont think that really works for g.
Google must pay all court fees and a fine of $2,592 (2,000 euros).

from the report:<br>
Google must pay all court fees and a fine of $2,592 (2,000 euros).
<Br><br>
In Europe, some courts have been favorable to trademark owners. Louis Vuitton sued Google and its French subsidiary for similar alleged trademark infringement, and a French court ordered Google to cease the practice and pay a fine.

I mean this is not first time google went to court and lost if you can say that and i really wonder was it all worth. i mean the court fees are not expensive and also the fine is nothing to google but what is the price of the lawyers and also potential to new lawsuits if some other companies decide to follow.

11:00 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Copyright laws are different around the world folks.

Why should someone else be able to use a trademarked name to garner traffic to their web site?

11:17 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"Why should someone else be able to use a trademarked name to garner traffic to their web site? "

first, a trademark is not somethgin you buy once and it becomes yours. They are rules and limits governing that. Apparently those vary around the world.

In G's case: you go in the store and ask for Pepsi, but Coke has paid the store owner to ask, how about trying some Coke instead? That's all it is. No confusion on trademark and you can still get your Pepsi if you so choose.

2:48 am on Jan 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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No confusion on trademark and you can still get your Pepsi if you so choose.

Ah Yes. But can coke start selling 6 coke cans in a cardboard box with Pepsi written on it?

10:03 am on Jan 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Ah Yes. But can coke start selling 6 coke cans in a cardboard box with Pepsi written on it?

Google doesnt exactly do the same, Google still offers the pepsi, but with coke sitting on the counter...

10:57 pm on Jan 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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There was an interesting article recently in the Boston Globe that described econometric research demonstrating that countries' economic success was a function of what foundation their legal system was based on. In particular, countries with legal systems based on the Napoleonic Civil Code were particularly unsuccessful and those based on British Common Law were particularly successful [boston.com].

What makes this analysis particularly interesting in this case is that Common Law relative to the Civil Code, gives more protection to less powerful players in the economic process such as creditors, shareholders, and consumers.

This ruling of the French court is a good example of this. Their laws protect big companies against "unfair" competition. US laws protect consumers' fair access to information and media companies' right to make a fair return on the service they provide.

12:17 am on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Cline: I think that is a good point. If you cannot protect what you own i.e. trademark why bother trying to make money?

If laws are not being upheld to protect the small and large players we end up running amuck and using each others property.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Law provides order and an incentive to innovate.

2:46 am on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"If you cannot protect what you own i.e. trademark why bother trying to make money? "

there's a fine line between trademark protection and public's rights. Trademark protection should be granted only to protect confusion of brands or dilution. if you you type Geico and a Progressive Insurance ad comes up, there's absolutely no confusion. Any sane person knows it's NOT Geico. Plus that it's just an ad. If Progressive added "Geico" to their page or meta tags to rank, then it's very different.

3:17 am on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Walkman: not sure I understand your point. But it raises another question. If the Progressive ad comes up after clicking an ad that uses the keyword Geico - then that creates confusion in the marketplace.

Plus would the ad for Progressive even have come up had the term "Geico" not been used.

3:34 am on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Anyone remember a hamburg (germany) court ruling that held a website responsible for the content of a website they linked to? Same issue?
It induced many to place a legal disclaimer for the content of linked sites.

A link that may look good when you consider it, may be changed later to entirely different content, and you will not know unless you go visiting all those links frequently and somehow apply a list of criteria to determine suitability.

Screen sizes will need to increase to make room for all the legal disclaimer text for a liability-free future (or ever smaller fonts, that "fine print")! Goodbye "keep it simple".

What I wonder is, after paying the fees, how can G avoid getting sued again for the same issue by the same company?

9:37 am on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Google will have to abide by the laws in different countries.

If this means treating companies in france different than the US - then they will have to do so. Perhaps only on french ips - I do not know.

I don't think it causes confusion, but others might disagree. Just because you own a trademark - doesn't mean you OWN the WORD.

There is nothing wrong with comparing your product to someone elses. I see nothing wrong with this - and I don't think the US courts have disagreed so far.

It will become more problematic for google as laws evolve and change - and how to enact conflicting decisions across borders.

For example:

1) If a US court bars google from refusing nazi ads for some reason (I doubt they would).
2) A german court rules it is illegal.

What does google do?

Things like this are bound to come up more and more.

11:42 am on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hmm, so what happens if I have a permanent add for a Hotel Chain on my Portal, and somebody types in "Le Meridien" in my site search box and the ad still shows on the results page? How are AdWords different form other content? Sicne when dies trademark protection give you not only protection over the trademarked term, but over ALL competition in that industry?

How can a trademakr be violated if it isn't even used or shown on the site? Isn't the visitor guilty for typing in the words? (Which he may be legally allowed to do)? Do we have t oadd disclamiers to our SEs and site searcehs "Please do not type registered trademaks into this box!"?

Why do I get the distinct feeling these rulings are direct results of ignorant judges?

SN

2:29 pm on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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killroy, in this case it's not about ignorant judges: It's about different legal systems, with different assumptions of whose rights are more valuable. I've heard over and over in the fora from people who deeply believe that advertising triggered on trademarks is unethical and should be illegal. Other people (such as myself) believe that preventing advertising from being triggered on trademarks is unethical. It's all about whose rights one considers to be more important.
3:09 pm on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Copyright laws are different around the world folks.

Actually copyright laws are pretty much the same all over the world and based on the Berne Convention from 1886. But in this case it is a question of trademarks. These are governed by the Madrid Protocol from 1891. 60 countries have signed this protocol. See http://www.wipo.int [wipo.int] for more about this.

But perhaps more to the point; advertising for somebody else's trademark violates Google's TOS. I have had an ad stopped for this very reason. (By another French hotel chain no less.) So how did Google end up in court?

4:57 pm on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Keyword triggering ads on somebody else's trademark does not violate Google's TOS.
4:58 pm on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The point is triggering ads by trademarked name.

For a generic search word, plenty of ads appear.
Now if you type "le meridien" or "louis vuitton", no ads appear in serps.
I assume G has a list of brand names that are not allowed as keyword for ads.
That list could get awful long, and might need to include not just int'l tradenames but also country-by-country tradenames.
Then you also have the case of disputed tradenames.

You start to wonder about the sense of a word (or 2 words) in a language being owned privately.
This practice exists in common law and civil code.
New words are created (microsoft,pepsi,google,victoria's secret,intel) and you can own them.
Even an abbreviation is considered a new creation (ibm).
When it's a family name (mcdonalds, louis vuitton, yves st laurent,christian dior) you start to wonder. Any other family member will never be able to setup a new business using his name to promote it.
Then when it's a city name (champagne), you wonder.
If your name happens to be the same as an actor's name (james stewart, michael jackson), you can't promote yourself in this world.

Basically, no inheritance by name, only by deed.
Sounds fair doesn't it?

11:52 am on Jan 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Keyword triggering ads on somebody else's trademark does not violate Google's TOS.

No? That's what Adwords Support told me when they deleted keywords containing a hotel chain trademark, even though the hotels involved were under contract to us. I gathered that the owner had complained about it.

2:47 pm on Jan 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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rencke, sorry, I was referring to US & Canada. You're advertising in Sweden. The TOS is differnet there on this issue.
3:58 pm on Jan 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"No? That's what Adwords Support told me when they deleted keywords containing a hotel chain trademark, even though the hotels involved were under contract to us. I gathered that the owner had complained about it. "

The TOS are probably diff, to reflect the different trademark laws and court rulings

 

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