The European Court of Justice

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Google won a significant legal battle in Europe, critical to its business model.

The European Court of Justice ruled that advertisers could use trademarks that they did not own as keywords in their google adwords.

Here is how Google explains the trademark decision.

"Google aims to provide as much information as possible to users so that they can make informed decisions. 

For this reason, we have been awaiting a series of decisions by the European Court of Justice that explore the extent to which trade mark rights can be used to restrict information available to users. 

The first of those decisions was delivered today. 

The question before the court was whether advertisers should be allowed to choose keywords freely when reaching out to users on the Internet

In other words, if advertisers are allowed to show advertisements when another company's brand name is entered as a search query. Trade marks are part of our daily life and culture, helping us to identify the products and services that we may be looking for. They are key for companies to market and advertise their products and services. 

But trade mark rights are not absolute. 

We believe that user interest is best served by maximizing the choice of keywords, ensuring relevant and informative advertising for a wide variety of different contexts. 

For instance, if a user is searching for information about a particular car, he or she will want more than just that car's website. 

They might be looking for different dealers that sell that car, second hand cars, reviews about the car or looking for information about other cars in the same category."

This is a very important decision for both franchisee associations and franchisees.

A franchisee association may want to draw attention to its website by using ad and targeting the franchisor's trade marks as key words.  The franchisee association may not have permission to use the franchisor's trademark on their own website, so constructing online advertising targeting those keywords may be the next best thing.

A franchise may want to advertise on the internet using the franchisor's trademarks as keywords, but not advertising the franchisor's trademark on his or website.

This critical ruling by the European Court of Justice would allow the franchisee association and the franchsiee the necessary latitude to compete online.

Will the North American Courts follow suit?  A very important issue to follow.

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