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Update 66: October 19, 2009

1. ECJ: Advocate General says use of trademarks as keywords is ok!

Google is before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in connection with a French case in which a number of companies, including Louis Vuitton complained that Google had infringed their trademark rights by allowing advertisers to use company trademarks as keywords. The winner in the latest round: Google. An adviser to Europe’s highest court said that Google’s controversial practice was not illegal under European law. Google mays allow advertisers to select the keywords and also display ads for searches involving the keywords.

The opinion contains some interesting statements on the questions whether there is a likelihood of confusion or not:

"86.      By comparing ads with natural results, the parties assume that natural results are a proxy for ‘true’ results – that is to say, that they originate from the trade mark proprietors themselves. But they do not. Like the ads displayed, natural results are just information that Google, on the basis of certain criteria, displays in response to the keywords. Many of the sites displayed do not in fact correspond to the sites of the trade mark proprietors.

87.      The parties are influenced by the belief to which I referred at the outset – that if an internet user seeks something in Google’s search engine, the internet user will find it. However, that is not a blind belief; internet users are aware that they will have to sift through the natural results of their searches, which often reach large numbers. They may expect that some of those natural results will correspond to the site of the trade mark proprietor (or an economically linked undertaking), but they will certainly not believe this of all natural results. Moreover, sometimes they may not even be looking for the site of the trade mark proprietor, but for other sites related to the goods or services sold under the trade mark: for example, they might not be interested in purchasing the trade mark proprietor’s goods but only in having access to sites reviewing those goods.

88.      Google’s search engine provides help in sifting through natural results by ranking them according to their relevance to the keywords used. There may be an expectation on the part of internet users, based on their assessment of the quality of Google’s search engine, that the more relevant results will include the site of the trade mark proprietor or whatever site they are looking for. However, this is nothing more than an expectation. Confirmation only comes when the site’s link appears, its description is read, and the link is clicked on. Often the expectation will be disappointed, and internet users will go back and try out the next relevant result."

Trade marks which have a reputation enjoy special protection as compared with ordinary trade marks: their use can be prevented not only in relation to identical or similar goods or services, but also in relation to any good or service that takes unfair advantage of, or is detrimental to, the distinctive character or the repute of the trade mark. This special protection for trade marks which have a reputation does not depend on there being a risk of confusion on the part of consumers. But still, no trademark violation by Google, because:

In my opinion, it's too early for Google to celebrate. The Advocate General's opinion definitely is a huge victory, but the European Court of Justice still has to follow it. It often does, but e.g. last year in another internet law case, where it had to decide whether a service provider operating exclusively on the Internet is under an obligation to communicate its telephone number to clients prior to the conclusion of a contract, it did not ( The discussion about the use of trademarks as keywords has been going on for nearly a decade now, it has produced more than 100 judgements world-wide and uncountable articles on the subject and still, the Advocate General came up with some new legal considerations. I would expect some further surprises in the European Court of Justice judgement, although I find it likely that Google will win again.

So let's assume Google is not infringing trademark rights by allowing advertisers to buy keywords: In June 2009, Google has liberalized its trademark policy in 190 countries to conform it to its policy in the US, Canada, Ireland and the UK. Google does not block the sales of trademarked keywords in these countries. It is very likely that following a victory in the Adword lawsuit Google will liberalize its trademark policy in the EU member states, too. Maybe with one - at first sight surprising - exemption: France. No court there sided with Google in the AdWords lawsuits, although some found that Google did not commit a trademark violation. Instead they based Google's liability on the common civil principle of fault (Section 1382 of the Civil Code, which provides that "Any act whatever of man, which causes damage to another, obliges the one by whose fault it occurred, to compensate it.") So French courts might still find a way around a Google friendly decision by the European Court of Justice and there might be one more battle ahead for Google in France.

There is one more important point of the Advocate General's opinion, that is hidden in Footnote 72: We have an ongoing discussion in many EU member states about the liability of search engines for search results that lead to infringing content. The Advocate General says, that in his opinion a search engine may fall under the liability exemption provided in respect of "caching" in Article 13 of the E-Commerce-Directive 2000/31. That would pretty much exempt search engines from liability. If the European Court of Justice would side with this opinion, this would be another  important victory for search engines. But this point has no importance for the outcome of the AdWords lawsuits, so it remains to be seen if the ECJ makes some obiter dictum statements.


2. Author's Guild v. Google - The latest developments

  • After the settlement in the class action lawsuit between Google and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers was announced last October, nearly 400 parties have filed positions on the proposed settlement, with the majority of them opposing the deal. Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft e.g. fear that the deal would give Google too much control over orphan works. Google co-founder Sergey Brin reacted to the critics of the settlement, saying that Google was the only company that has stepped up to scan the millions of out-of-print books and make them available to users. Companies that are complaining are doing nothing for them. (see Google Co-founder Sergey Brin Fires Back at Google Book Search Critics

  • The German Governement has lodged an objection to the deal between Google and the Authors Guild alleging that it would undermine the rights of German authors within the US. In its weekly podcast, German Chancellor Merkel said there are considerable dangers for copyright protection on the Internet. "That’s why we reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection — like Google is doing. The government places a lot of weight on this position on copyrights to protect writers in Germany.

  • The European Commission has called for a "European solution" to book digitisation. But a cooperation with Google might be possible. "Digitisation of books is a task of Herculean proportions which the public sector needs to guide, but where it also needs private-sector support. It is therefore time to recognise that partnerships between public and private bodies can combine the potential of new technologies and private investments with the rich collections of public institutions built up over the centuries. If we are too slow to go digital, Europe's culture could suffer in the future," said a joint statement by Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding and Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. Please note, there is already a digital library of scanned works in Europe, Europeana. See: EU calls for European solution to book digisation, Outlaw.

  • Google has agreed to change the proposed settlement after the Department of Justice said it opposed the deal: "A global disposition of the rights to millions of copyrighted works is typically the kind of policy change implemented through legislation, not through a private judicial settlement. If such a significant (and potentially beneficial) policy change is to be made through the mechanism of a class action settlement (as opposed to legislation), the United States respectfully submits that this Court should undertake a particularly searching analysis to ensure that the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 ('Rule 23') are met and that the settlement is consistent with copyright law and antitrust law. As presently drafted, the Proposed Settlement does not meet the legal standards this Court must apply." But the DOJ also stressed the positive effects of the greement: "The Proposed Settlement has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public. By allowing users to search the text of millions of books at no cost, the Proposed Settlement would open the door to new research opportunities."

  • The fairness hearing was postponed and New York District Judge Denny Chin ordered the parties to present the revamped deal to the court Nov. 9. The final hearing could happen as soon as late December or early January.

    Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said in an interview that “the core agreement is going to stay the same.

 It's my guess that the revised settlement agreement will

  • exclude foreign authors and publishers from the class so that the settlement has no impact on them. This would eliminate many objections raised by the German and French government. Let's be honest, Book Search is a service for people in the US. I think Google can live with excluding works from foreign authors, most of them probably not written in English. Google was criticised for not having translated the settlement agreement. Some authors saw a violation of an international treaty, the RBÜ. All these objections could easily be wiped away (but there would still be one problem: Google has already scanned many books of foreign author's. What would happen with them? Will Google only continue showing snippets, claiming this to be fair use?). 

  • explicitly give the book right's registry the right to licence orphan works to Google's competitors. Google might accept this as long as the registry is not allowed to give competitors a better deal than itself for the next 10 years.

Justia page


In short:

  • For a report about an AdWords related lawsuit in India, see PC World and for a metatag-case in Poland

  • The appeal court's decision in Person v. Google (see Update 45) is not very surprising. It took the Ninth Circuit only two pages to hold that Person has failed to plead sufficient facts to raise the allegations that Google engaged in exclusionary, anticompetitive, or predatory behavior beyond a speculative level.
    Person v. Google, 2009 WL 3059092 (9th Cir. Sept. 24, 2009); also see Goldman, Eric, Person v. Google Appeal Rejected, Technology & Marketing Law Blog

  • Tom Curley of AP and News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch continue complaining about Google and Yahoo. The "evil search engines" link to their stories but don't pay the AP or News Corp. to do so! They described the likes of Google and Yahoo as "content kleptomaniacs" and promised to charge them for using their company's content. Well time to wake up and stop blaming others for your own failure to compete in a changing marketplace. How about robots.txt, or do you like the free service that drives users to your content? See Olesen, AP, News Corp bosses tell search engines to pay up

  • The British Columbia Court of Appeal has issued a judgment on the  issue of linking to a website wih defamatory statements. The appeals court confirmed the lower court's ruling (see Update 60) that hyperlinks will not in themselves implicate a website owner in publishing defamatory material found on the linked to site. But, if a Court finds that the person providing the hyperlink endorses or adopts the defamatory content, or explicitly encourages the reader to link to the offending material, then the hyperlinking website owner may be deemed to have participated in a republication of the offending material, and face liability and damages. See: p2pnet wins precedent-setting Crookes appeal

  • The homepage of Pirate Bay disappeared from Google's search results for a few days. In a first statement Google said that it received a take-down request that erroneously listed and as a result, this URL was accidentally removed from the search index. Later, Google updated its statement: "The removal appears to be an internal error and not part of a DMCA request". See: Google: Pirate Bay booted off search by mistake, CNet 


New in legal resources

  • Peguera, Miquel, The DMCA Safe Harbors and Their European Counterparts: A Comparative Analysis of Some Common Problems (September 4, 2009). Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

  • Hausman, Jerry A. and Sidak, J. Gregory,Google and the Proper Antitrust Scrutiny of Orphan Books (August 2009). Journal of Competition Law & Economics, Vol. 5, No. 3, p. 411, 2009. Available at SSRN:

  • Garon, Jon M.,Searching Inside Google: Cases, Controversies and the Future of the World’s Most Provocative Company (August 25, 2009). Available at SSRN:






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