Luxembourg: An adviser to the European Union’s top court backed Google on Tuesday in a row with luxury goods maker LVMH over Internet advertising, saying the web search firm had not infringed trade mark rights.
“Advocate general Poiares Maduro considers that Google has not infringed trade mark rights by allowing advertisers to buy keywords corresponding to registered trade marks,” the European Court of Justice said in a statement on Tuesday.
The case centres on whether Google has the right to sell brand names for Internet search advertising - an important money-spinner for the group.
Companies such as shoe stores, for example, pay Google so their name appears alongside Internet search results for a brand of designer shoes they sell.
Louis Vuitton and others have been fighting such advertising after makers of imitation products piggybacked on those brands in online searches to attract customers.
The French courts last year referred the case to the EU tribunal, seeking guidance on whether Google’s use of keywords contravened companies’ rights under EU trade mark laws.
Maduro said in his opinion that the use of the trade marks was limited to the selection of keywords, which concerned only Google and the advertisers.
“When selecting keywords, there is thus no product or service sold to the general public. Such a use cannot therefore be considered as being a use made in relation to goods or services covered by the trade marks,” he said.
He added that Internet users’ access to information concerning a trade mark should not be limited by the owner.
“In effect, the mere display of relevant sites in response to keywords is not enough to establish a risk of confusion on the part of consumers as to the origin of goods or services,” Maduro said.
The Luxembourg-based court follows the opinion of its advocates general in a majority of cases. The judges of the court are beginning their deliberations in this case and will give judgment at a later date, the statement said.