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Europe Says Google Has a “Pecuniary Interest” in AdWords Trademark Infringement

Google’s not unafraid of the legal action it often faces from France, but there’s an interesting twist in an ongoing saga over trademark infringement–and Google should be concerned.

While a European Union court advisor has submitted an opinion that mostly exonerates Google from accepting and displaying bids for trademarked keywords, apparently there’s an interesting loophole–at least one the European Court of Justice can consider.

Apparently advocate General Miguel Poiares Maduro did not accept that Google’s AdWords system is a neutral platform and exempt from legal action.

Google has "a direct pecuniary interest in Internet users clicking on the ads’ links," said a statement from the court’s press service, which means it can’t claim the same immunity as a search engine which EU law sees as a neutral information vehicle.

In other words, Google has a motive for displaying trademark infringing ads–euros! Lots of them!

If trademark holders can prove that the actual ad content–displayed by Google–damages their brand, they could have a case for damages–and include Google as a defendant. Of course, Google rejects this, but I hope it has a more compelling defense up its sleeve–should it go to court–than this:

Google’s senior litigation counsel for Europe, Harjinder Obhi, said the company also believes that "consumers are smart and are not confused when they see a variety of ads displayed in response to their search queries."

Here’s a news flash Mr. Obhi not only are consumers not very smart, but advertisers are very conniving. Trust me, there will be confusion and you will be back in a French court very soon.