Google Will Sell Brand Names as Keywords in Europe

New York Times – Technology & Business
By MATTHEW SALTMARSH

PARIS — The Internet giant Google said on Wednesday that it would change its search policy for most of Europe to allow advertisers to buy and use as keywords terms that have been trademarked by others.

Previously, brand owners could file a trademark complaint with Google to prevent third-party ads from being returned alongside the results of a search of a trademarked name, like Louis Vuitton or Prada.

The decision will be effective Sept. 14 and extends to the rest of Europe changes that were made in Britain and Ireland in 2008. In the United States and Canada, Google has been using the policy since 2004.

Google’s move stems from a decision by the European Court of Justice in March. The court broadly ruled that Google had respected trademark law by allowing advertisers to bid for keywords corresponding to third-party trademarks.

Brand owners, led by the French luxury goods company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, had argued that only they or authorized sites should be able to buy and use such trademarked terms in searches, so as to protect their brand value. They now face the prospect of having the ads of third-parties offering their products being displayed in search results.

Trademark owners who feel that third-party ads confuse users as to the origin of the goods and services will still be able to file complaints with Google, and the search company said it would take down the ads if it agreed that they were confusing.

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