Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Google Adwords infringe in French law, anyway

There is still a long way to go before we have any sort of resolution in the debate about whether Google Adwords (and other keywords used in web advertising) can infringe trade marks. I posted a note about Interflora's grievances against marks & Spencer and Flowers Direct Online last month, and generated a small argument (which I'm afraid I didn't carry on, which was discourteous to the commenter - perhaps we can pick up now).

Out-Law reports today that Google has been fined in France for allowing trade marks to be used as Adwords, though from the report it sounds as if they have in fact been ordered to pay damages - another example, perhaps, of allowing a journalist too much liberty to write about intellectual property.

The Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (why is it conventional to use the English definite article rather than thr French?) ordered Google to pay €200,000 to Voyageurs du Monde and
€150,000 to Terres d'Aventure, even though the judge did not think the damage had been significant. I can't find anything on the TGI website, though: however, Le Monde (hang on, why isn't that "The Monde"?) has the story, with a dateline of 19 janvier, and says:

"Pour la première fois, un tribunal français a remis en cause le service de publicité en ligne Google Ads, jugeant que celui-ci détournait une partie de la clientèle des voyagistes Terres d'aventure et Voyageurs du monde vers des sites concurrents. C'est une première dans la jurisprudence de la publicité sur Internet. Le moteur de recherche Google a été condamné à payer un total de 410 000 euros aux voyagistes Terres d'aventure et Voyageurs du monde pour avoir "détourné une partie de leur clientèle vers des sites concurrents par des liens commerciaux".

I thought the French courts had already established this principle, and there appear to be cases (mostly in lower courts) going back to 2005 on the subject. However, there's one that has gone on appeal to le Cour de Cassation - this is getting ridiculous: should I write "au Cour de Cassation"? I think not) from where it has been referred to the Court of Justice of the EC. Le Monde sees something novel in the latest decision. Perhaps someone with better knowledge of French law will be able to enlighten me. I'll send some emails ...

A piece on Lexology this morning, from CMS Cameron McKenna, on the three outstanding references to the Court of justice on this topic is worth reading.

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