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 Sponsored Links decision in the U.K.

Google changes its trade mark policy in the UK and in Ireland: The use of trade marked terms to trigger ads will be allowed, starting May 5. This move brings the policy in line with the one in the US and Canada.

Google might have announced the change because of a recent High Court Ruling that cleared Yahoo of trademark infringement. Victor Wilson, owner of a London based catering business had sued Yahoo, after discovering that typing Mr Spicy, a name that he registered as a Community Trade Mark, triggered sponsored links for Sainsbury's supermarket. Yahoo asked for summary judgement, arguing that it had not used plaintiff's trademark, and got it:

"The trade mark in this case is not used by anyone other than the browser who enters the phrase "Mr Spicy" as a search query in the defendants' search engine. In particular, the trade mark is not used by the defendants. The response of the defendants to the use of the trade mark by the browser is not use of the trade mark by the defendants.

That is enough to decide the case in the defendants' favour. But the matter does not stop there. If, by some process of reasoning, one were to hold that the search engine's response to the words used by the browser was, itself, use by the defendants, in my judgment, it is not use of the mark "Mr Spicy". What, instead, is being used is the English word "spicy" as it appears in that phrase."

But please note: The advertiser had used the word "spicy" as keyword, not "Mr Spicy", so its still possible that buying a keyword that matches another firm's trade mark is unlawful in the UK.

Google's decision might be a dangerous one that leads to more lawsuits.

Also see:

Victor Andrew Wilson v. Yahoo! UK Ltd. / Overture Services Ltd., Decision of February 20, 2008




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