The Trademark Blog and Zdnet UK report that Google France has been charged of trademark infringement because of its technology AdWords. The owner of two companies, named "Bourse des Voyages" and "Bourse des Vols" and owning those names as registered trademarks, has successfully sued Google France because a search on those trademarks trigger ads from competitors. Google was condemned to pay 70,000 euros ($81,200) in damages, plus 5,000 euros ($5,800) in fees and 1,500 euros ($1,700) per infraction materialized one month after the judgment has been notified. The sentence is enforceable, even if Google France appeals.
Some facts about the court which judged this case:
- it formally accepted evidence written in English (I don't think this is usual, and Google France tried to have some of those evidences rejected on the basis of language)
- it judged that Google France was fully responsible for the service sold in France to French companies (Google France tried to reject responsibility to the US mothership)
- it made a clear separation between the search engine and the ad service
- it rejected Google's defense that since those trademarks are composed of generic words (bourse = market, vols = flights) and its customers bought those separate words, it couldn't prevent the association of those words to trigger the same results. The court judged that Google did not prove that it couldn't verify and exclude an exact expression
- it said that Google couldn't hide itself behind its own technology, nor could prove that the technology cannot be modified to prevent such abuse
On the last point, it interesting to see that Google provides its AdWords customers with a facility to find keywords related to the ones they want to purchase (see this screen capture).