Sunday, February 5, 2012

Google's AdWords And AdSense Trademark Policy And Trademark Violations

A dominant portion of Google Incorporation’s revenue is generated through online advertisements. However, online advertisement is a complicated process that requires sound dealing of both technical and legal issues.

For instance, online advertisements frequently appear on blogs and websites that steal contents of others. At times these advertisements also appear upon spam blogs and content farming blogs who openly violate copyright of others.

Of course, Internet intermediaries like Google cannot be expected to pre screen such contents or keep a close watch upon such contents. However, Internet intermediaries’ liability in India, like other places, requires companies like Google to take down offending contents once Google is sufficiently notified in this regard.

For instance, if Google fails to comply with legally sustainable Indian demands, it would amount to non exercise of cyber law due diligence in India. This would result in the denial of “safe harbour” provisions to Google. Cyber due diligence for Indian companies is now well established and companies, both foreign and Indian, must comply with the same. In this light we have to analyse the trademark violation cases arising in India.

Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) believe that Google must address trademarks violations in India more seriously. Similarly, online advertisements of Google placed on copyright violating contents further raises additions legal obligations upon Google.

Google Incorporation’s Indian strategy to counter legal disputes in India should be formulated that must cover various legal issues. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) violation issues as well as cyber law compliances must be essential part of such strategy. Internet intermediary liability and Indian safe harbour provisions must also be part of the same.

Recently a case has been filed to the competition commission of India against Google citing discriminatory trade practices related to its AdWords program. It has been alleged by the complainant that Google has abused its dominance by engaging in discriminatory and retaliatory practices relating to AdWords.

It is important to analyse Google’s AdWords and AdSense trademark policy in this regard. Google claims to understand the importance of and respect the trademarks of others. Google’s AdWords Terms and Conditions prohibit intellectual property infringement by advertisers. Advertisers are responsible for the keywords they choose to generate advertisements and the text that they choose to use in those advertisements.

Google claims that it takes allegations of trademark infringement very seriously and, as a courtesy, it investigates matters raised by trademark owners. Trademarks are territorial and apply only to certain goods or services. Therefore, different parties can own the same mark in different countries or different industries. Of course, exceptions to this rule are also there and a single person or company may have a trademark in multiple jurisdictions. If you are filing a trademark violation complaint with Google, kindly provide adequate information as to where the mark is valid and for what goods or services it has been registered.

This would help Google in processing complaint in a more effective manner. If you are providing information in a proper manner, chances are great that your trademark violation complaint would be entertained by Google.

Before making a complaint to Google, kindly keep the following in mind:

(1) The trademark owner doesn't need to be a Google AdWords advertiser in order to send a complaint.

(2) Any such investigation will only affect ads served on or by Google.

(3) Google's trademark policy does not apply to search results. Google’s investigations only apply to sponsored links. For trademark concerns about websites that appear in Google search results, the trademark owner should contact the site owner directly.

(4) In the case of an AdSense for Domains trademark complaint, an investigation will affect only the participation of the domain name in question in Google’s AdSense for Domains program.

(5) Because Google is not a third-party arbiter, it encourages trademark owners to resolve their disputes directly with the advertisers, particularly because the advertisers may have similar ads running via other advertising programs.

If you wish to file a trademark violation complaint with Google, you can file the same here. Kindly avoid sending direct mail to Google staff as you would be redirected to the form segment in such cases. It would only cost you time, money and efforts and duplication of labour. We hope stakeholders would find this work useful.