The Court of Justice of the European Union has an important decision to make in the upcoming months on search ad keyword bidding over trademarked keywords.
Currently, you can bid on trademarked keywords in Europe as long as it doesn't cause confusion to the searcher. But as Search Engine Land reports via Blogstorm, the European Advocate General issued an opinion to the court on how to rule in a matter of a suit between the trademark owner and someone using that trademark in search ads.
(1) Article 5(1)(a) of First Council Directive 89/104/EEC of 21 December 1988 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks and Article 9(1)(a) of Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trade mark must be interpreted as follows:
– A sign identical with a trade mark is used ‘in relation to goods or services’ within the meaning of these provisions when it has been selected as a keyword in connection with an internet referencing service without the consent of the trade mark proprietor, and the display of ads is organised on the basis of the keyword.
– The proprietor of a trade mark is entitled to prohibit such conduct under abovementioned circumstances, in the case where that ad does not enable an average internet user, or enables the said user only with difficulty, to ascertain whether the goods or services referred to in the ad originate from the proprietor of the trade mark or an undertaking economically connected to it or from a third party.
– An error concerning the origin of goods or services arises when the competitor’s sponsored link is liable to lead some members of the public to believe that the competitor is a member of the trade mark proprietor’s commercial network when it is not. As a result of this the trade mark proprietor has the right to prohibit the use of the keyword in advertising by the competitor in question.
(2) Article 5(2) of Directive 89/104 and Article 9(1)(c) of Regulation No 40/94 must be interpreted as meaning that the use of a sign as a keyword in an internet referencing service in relation to goods or services identical to those covered by an identical trade mark with a reputation also falls within the scope of application of those provisions and it can be forbidden by the trade mark owner when
(a) the ad shown as a result of the internet user having typed as a search term the keyword identical with a trade mark with a reputation mentions or displays that trade mark; and
(b) the trade mark
– is either used therein as a generic term covering a class or category of goods or services;
– or the advertiser attempts thereby to benefit from its power of attraction, its reputation or its prestige, and to exploit the marketing effort expended by the proprietor of that mark in order to create and maintain the image of that mark.
(3) The fact that the internet search engine operator does not permit trade mark proprietors in the relevant geographical area to block the selection of signs identical to their trade marks as keywords by other parties is as such immaterial in so far as the liability of the advertiser using of the keywords is concerned.
In short, change trademark law as it relates to keyword bidding. To prevent more people from using trademark terms for search keyword bidding or use within the search ads.
Some advertisers think this is a good idea while others think this is a bad idea. Which side are you on?
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.