Google may be liable for use of third party trade marks

September 2005


The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has found that search engine company Google is partially liable for including third party trade-marks in the text of sponsored links as this could cause consumer confusion in violation of US trade mark law. Google sells ‘Sponsored Links’ that appear alongside “organic” search results returned when a user queries Google’s database of indexed web sites for general terms. Justice Leonie Brinkema found that that Google’s practice of allowing trade-marks in the text of third party advertisements that appeared as Sponsored Links caused consumer confusion. Google has since ceased this practice. The Court was careful to limit the potential impact of this decision on Internet business practices, noting that the plaintiff’s business model is a unique one and that the findings are fact-specific and not yet fully resolved. Further, the Court noted that none of the advertisers themselves are party to the action and their potential liability is not an issue before the Court.

For a news article, visit:

From a summary of the case by Jason Young of Deeth Williams Wall published in E-TIPS® newsletter, Vol 4 No, see:


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