In 2004, Google began offering advertisers in the U.S. and Canada a unique advertising opportunity. Marketers were allowed to pay to display their ads on the search results pages of the competition. For example, Sony could pay to have its ad show up when you search for Panasonic. This policy is being expanded to about 200 countries starting in June of this year.
This expansion has created controversy for Google. Lawsuits brought in the U.S. and Europe claim that this keyword advertising policy is a form of trademark infringement. In the United States, Google is currently in the U.S. Court of Appeals defending a patent-infringement website brought by Rescuecom, a computer repair company. In Europe, the rulings have been mixed. Google recently won a case in Germany. However, after losing a case in France, related to a lawsuit brought by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Google is now appealing to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU. The hope is that a positive outcome on this appeal will set the stage for opening up the keyword advertising policy to all countries in the EU.
Even with the ongoing litigation, Google feels they are on sound legal footing. Google spokesman, Ben Novick, stated, “ Following a global legal review, we have made the changes in countries whose legal and business practices are consistent with making the change.” What started in the U.S. and Canada in 2004 was expanded to the U.K. and Ireland last year, and now moves on to the reset of the world in June.