Luxembourg: Louis Vuitton told the European Union’s highest court that Google Inc. doesn’t have the right to sell trademark-protected names to advertisers that trigger sponsored links when the name is used in an Internet search.
Google, owner of the world’s most-used Internet search engine, and LVMHMoet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA have been locked in a six-year fight over Internet searches that link users to sites selling counterfeit fashion accessories.
Google is appealing a 2006 ruling by a Paris court that it breached Louis Vuitton’s trademark rights.
Google makes money not by reason of the nature of the keyword, but by someone clicking on the keyword, Google lawyer Alexandra Neri told a 15-judge panel of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg today. The decision to click or not to click belongs to who—clearly to the Internet user.
Brand wars: A Louis Vuitton outlet in New Delhi. The luxury goods brand and Google are fighting over trademark rights infringements. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
The case is the EU tribunal’s first on whether companies in the 27-nation region can block search engines from using trademarked brand names to trigger search results.
Internet advertisements tied to search results generate most of Google’s revenue.
Google’s advertisement activities have given companies which sell fake products, unprecedented visibility beyond their wildest dreams, Louis Vuitton lawyer Patrice de Cande told the court.
LVMH sued in 2003 and the Paris Central Court in 2006 ordered Mountain View, California-based Google to pay LVMH 300,000 euros for trademark infringement.
France’s highest appeals court last year referred the case to the EU tribunal for guidance.
A ruling is expected by next year.
Whether keywords are protected under EU trademark law has been of great concern to brand owners, said Stijn Debaene, a lawyer in Brussels with Allen & Overy LLP.
This is the most important case for the e-commerce industry in the EU.