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Last updated at 16:46 BST, Wednesday, 07 April 2010

Google keyword sale dispute

Summary

2 April 2010

Search engine company Google is in disagreement with a number of well-known companies because it sells product related search keywords to unrelated companies.

Reporter:
Nigel Cassidy

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If you go onto the Google search engine and enter a famous brand name, you might expect to see lists of sites associated directly with that same company. That used to be the case until a few years ago. But now Google makes large sums from allowing other advertisers to bid for keywords, including those of established names such as the leather bag makers Louis Vuitton.

That means links to their websites appear near the top of the list that comes up after the search. LVMH says the practice is confusing for buyers who can't be sure if the goods are genuine. Over time they fear that their reputation will be damaged and they'll lose business to counterfeiters.

But having studied European law carefully the Court of Justice said in a statement that Google hadn't infringed trademark law by allowing outside advertisers to buy up keywords.

Google has said it will honour valid complaints, though trademark holders think that their brand names shouldn't be sold to outside operators in the first place.

France's highest court has the final say in this particular case, but many more involving other luxury goods makers are pending on both sides of the Atlantic.

Nigel Cassidy, BBC, Brussels

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Vocabulary

a famous brand name

the name of a well-known product

used to be the case

was true in the past but is not true now

makes large sums

earns a lot of money

to bid for

to offer to pay a certain amount for something in competition with others

genuine

real, authentic

reputation

opinion held by the public about how good a particular company and its products are

counterfeiters

people who make copies of another company's products and sell them pretending that they are the real items

infringed

broken

trademark holders

companies that have the legal right to use a particular name or logo for a product

are pending

are waiting for a legal ruling to be made

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