Google Wins German Trademark Ruling

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A German state court dismissed a trademark-infringement case yesterday brought against Google for its search advertising system.

A Hamburg district court rejected a complaint filed by German software company Metaspinner Media over Google selling ads to Metaspinner's competitors tied to searches for "preispiraten," the trademarked name of Metaspinner's price-comparison software.

"We must wait now for the written reason of the court and then decide how we can protect our marks against such encroachments," Christopher Berndt, managing director of Metaspinner, said in a statement.

Google representatives were unavailable for comment.

Google has faced several trademark-related lawsuits in the United States and Europe over its advertising system, which accounts for 98 percent of its sales. The legal complaints focus on Google's policy allowing other businesses to display ads in response to terms whose trademarks are owned by others.

In the United States, a District Court judge in Virginia ruled last month that Geico could proceed with its trademark complaint against Google and Yahoo for displaying competing ads when users search for its trademarked name. American Blind & Wallpaper and Pets Warehouse also are suing Google, alleging trademark infringement.

Outside of the United States and Canada, Google's trademark policy is to allow bidding on trademarked terms until trademark owners object. Google's German Web site now displays only a single ad from Metaspinner in response to searches for "preispiraten."

In April, Google loosened its trademark policy in the United States and Canada to let advertisers bid on any trademarked term as long as they do not use it in their ad copy. The company said it made the change to give searchers more choice and to avoid the situation of Google acting as an arbitrator of trademark disputes.

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