Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

The Court of Appeal in Paris has backed Louis Vuitton in a dispute over trademark infringement and has increased the damages that Google must pay.

Louis Vuitton was defending a successful complaint against Google for unfair competition and advertising practices and breach of trademark laws. It won the case in February 2005 and Google appealed. The Court of Appeal ruled that the original verdict should be upheld, and that fines levied against it would be increased.

The case concerned Google's AdWords advertising system. Louis Vuitton said that Google was allowing adverts for counterfeit Vuitton goods to be displayed alongside search results for the genuine article.

The court ruled that this amounted to a trademark infringement, and that Google must now pay €360,000 to Louis Vuitton for the breach of its intellectual property rights, a substantial increase on the €200,000 imposed on them in the 2005 judgment before the Civil Court of Paris.

Louis Vuitton, a company famed for the distinctive "LV" logo featured on its products, argued that, rather than being a research tool for individuals, Google was an advertising and marketing service for companies.

It may now use this principle to press for restrictions to be placed on the use of the Louis Vuitton name across more than 130 of Google's sites worldwide, as it has successfully done in relation to websites accessible from France, a source close to the company told the International Herald Tribune.

Any such case will have to deal with a series of different legal environments, since each Google site operates principally for the country featured in its domain name.

Google was quick to play down the significance of the case. "This is an old Adwords case concerning events dating back to 2003," said a company statement. "Since then, as is widely recognised on the market, Google has set up efficient policies and processes to prevent the unauthorised use of registered trademarks as well as forbid the use of AdWords to advertise for counterfeit products. Today's case does not raise any new issues in this respect".

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