back to article French court fines Google over trade marked keywords

A French court has fined search engine giant Google €350,000 and said that its search advertising business has infringed on two companies' trade marks. Google allows anyone to pay to have their adverts appear beside certain words. Trade mark holders have argued that allowing other people to buy an association with their brands …


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  1. Trevor Watt

    When you go to the supermarket...

    When you go to the supermarket and ask where the Coke is the self is also full of other carbonated drinks placed on certain prominent points on the shelf by deals done between the supermarket and the manufacturers.

    How is Ad-words really any different? And do the people who's branded web site was originally searched for think the Google et al should provide the service for free somehow?

    No doubt the brands in question would throw their hochets out their landau if Google responded to this by removing every trace of their brand names from their search database.

  2. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Up


    So, Google used to ensure that this wasn't allowed and then allowed it. Presumably this was done in the last turn of the handle on the money machine. Also presumably, they know damned well it's a dodgy practice. Why else was it originally disallowed?

    I guess that some fancy lawyer somewhere reckoned that they could take the cash and the advertiser would be liable for the misuse and any legal comeback. The French courts disagree with this opinion.

    Naked greed. That wouldn't be, er, Evil by any chance?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Belief is all.....

    "Google believes that our advertising services comply with French and European law on online advertising." Well, a court has just told you to your belief is wrong! Now check again and see if it complies with the law and be quick about it

    What is the law on "online" advertising anyway? Who wrote/writes the law?? Ooopps, let me guess. Sorry Google, didn't mean to be so rude, you just go ahead and do what you want on the internet.

  4. Chewy

    Commercial Harm

    They won't know the meaning of commercial harm until Google drops them off the search results

  5. John Browne

    @Trevor Watt

    I don't think your example is quite correct as google doesn't sell anything itself but merely provides a service based on search queries.

    A better example would be phoneing directory enquireies and asking for the number for Dell computers and being given the number for HP computers instead because HP had paid directory enquiries to associate it's name with Dells.

  6. John Bayly

    I don't like being a punctuation Nazi, however...

    "upholding complaints by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy and Meridien Hotels"

    Is this some uber-corporation that has cornered the fashion and luxury goods market?

  7. John Bayly


    Holy shit, I just looked it up. LVMH exists.

    We need an egg on face icon.

  8. Edward Rose

    Ironic really.

    @John Browne

    You've managed to miss the point. It's like the servcie giving you the phone number you've asked for (Dell), then asking if you'd also be interested in having HP's number too.

    Which is, to my knowledge both legal and fair (as far as the commercial world is concerned). Obviously I'm taking a UK view point on the law which is kind of irrelevant for a French court.

    The first analogy was pretty good - provided you discount the shops own brand goods from the equation. They are after all just providing a service of advertising another firms product. And, for every Pepsi clicked, erm bought, a share of the profit goes to the shop.

    I really don't see that Google has done anything overly wrong here. They need to make money, so their only crime is claiming to be the super benevolent wonderful t'interweb uber being. They are just another company out to make money.

    And, now for someone to point out the 'ironic mistake' in my post.

  9. Mark

    @John Browne

    Or like looking through Yellow Pages for "Taxis" and seeing HUNDREDS of taxi firms, all with their logo (IP) displayed if they paid for the space on the SAME PAGE!!!!

    Tell you what, if someone pays for your logo, YOU pay for it first.

  10. Paul Taylor

    they're standard French words

    I wouldn't have known that "voyageurs du monde" and "terre aventure" were names of companies if you hadn't told me. Why shouldn't I type these ordinary French words into Google and expect to get a variety of travel companies back? Why should one company be allowed a monopoly on ordinary words?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Trevor Watt

    Your example is not really correct.

    It is more like going into a supermarket and asking where the Coke is and being taken to an aisle that only has other brands of cola rather than actual real Coke (with the Coke elsewhere).

    I am not a huge fan of all the current IP bollocks but I think it is completely reasonable that if someone searches for your brand name or trademarked names then the most prominent responses should be to your sites or sites controlled / licensed by you.

    Imagine going into a Ferrari dealer and finding they are full of Ladas, so you go to another Ferrari dealer and you find it full of Fords. After a bit you will get pissed off and just stop looking for Ferraris. Especially if you find yourself in a dealer selling Aston Martins as you would obviously buy one of those rather than a Ferrari. Either way it is likely that Ferrari would have lost sales even when the searching is done on their name / trademarks.

  12. Hollerith

    @John Bayly, twice

    The hideousness of a merger chain that results in 'Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy' is quite rightly to be disbelieved.

  13. this

    @john bayly

    that's muphry's law for you.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Firewall France

    Let them have their own FranceNet

  15. Saul Dobney


    @Paul Taylor

    "Why should one company be allowed a monopoly on ordinary words?"

    That's because that's what a Trademark is. It's the whole point of a trademark since Bass in 1875 (fancy naming your beer after a fish).

    Wikipedia at least has an argument of fair use and is non-profit making. I've got a feeling Google will struggle to wriggle out of this other than by trying to pass liability (and costs) back at the advertisers.

  16. Neoc

    Who needs a frakking titles?

    The problem here is that the Trademark is over what can be termed as "ordinary words"; i.e. words that would naturally appear in any conversation.

    There is a good reason why some companies go out of their way to find names which do not exist in the local language. For example, while the words "International", "Business" and "Machine" may or may not be referring to a certain blue-coloured company, "IBM" certainly does (ditto with "KFC" and "Telstra").

    With a search engine, there is always uncertainty as to whether the user is typing in a set of "ordinary" words or in fact the trademark of a company. If I type in "McDonalds", am I looking for a burger (trademarked) or looking up some ancestry (non-trademarked). And trademarks get even more confusing when you cross international borders - "Burger King" in the US and "Burger King" in Australia are two completely different companies. Which is why "Burger King" US is called "Hungry Jack" in OZ (same number of letter, too - didn't need to resize the logo or the font).

    Note to companies: You want to avoid this kind of lawsuit-losing ambiguity? Do some thinking about your company's name *before* you trademark it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    and if they don't win immediately

    they can drag it out through the courts indefinitely and still drop those losers from their listings so that nobody can ever find them...kind of like what the did to the whinging nelson would say: HA HA

    even paris knows bad publicity is better than no publicity

  18. Tim Bates
    Thumb Down


    Your example is more broken than the ones you replied to... It's not like going into a Ferrari dealer and getting Fords. Google DOES give results about the trademarked words. The "competitors" ads are along side. So it's more like going into a Ferrari dealer and seeing a Porsche billboard in the carpark nextdoor.

    Why don't they sue TV stations and newspapers for having ads for something else next to an article about their products... Cause that's about the depth of it.

    Oh, and this case is proving that certain companies think we're all idiots. Ignoring the fact I wouldn't buy their wares to start with, this basically makes me want to never touch them.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Firewall France

    There already is a France-only internet. It's called minitel.

  20. Stef

    I am reminded of...

    I am reminded of Mike Rowe and his company/website

    Apparently we are all so stupid that we would think Bill Gates owned that website, because phonetically it sounds the same a microsoft. Phonetically?!?!?! Is that how we search for things now?

    Maybe I will buy googull from goDaddy

  21. Mark

    @Saul Dobney

    "That's because that's what a Trademark is. It's the whole point of a trademark since Bass in 1875 (fancy naming your beer after a fish)."

    But only in a context. Apple vs Apple ring a bell? One a computer company, the other a music publisher.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Transparency is important

    Worth noting that Pinsents, which runs the out-law site, is representing Interflora in their case against M&S over bidding on Interflora's trademark. Funny that out-law doesn't mention that in their piece given they have a clear interest in this area..

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