Google has introduced four changes since the ECJ has issued its ruling on Google France on the 23rd of March. Two of them can be seen as defensive, one as very progressive and one as kind of a slightly defensive side-step …and as of course the dance will continue…
- Defensive step backwards: Forbidding deceptive implied affiliation of business names. (1st of July)
- Latest step backward: Labelling (side-) no longer “Sponsored Links” but “Ads“. (maybe October, please see below)
- Defensive sidestep: Change of the background colour of top-ads from yellowish to a light purple. (29th of July)
- Progressive leap forward: : Changing AdWord’s Trademark Policy for some regions. (14th of September)
I haven’t had a chance to witness this change myself (please see the corresponding post and screenshots on searchengineland.com) and it is still not sure if and when Google will roll it out globally, but it indeed appears absolutely sensible to me as “ads” is a much clearer and far less ambiguous term than “sponsored links“.
In my opinion Google won’t lose a lot if it puts straight forward that the content that is shown besides it’s search results is commercial communication = ads. This will it make it much more difficult for TM owners to argue that search engine users might have been mistaken about the nature of this content. This might be true although research has shown that people actually do not pay a lot of attention to the labelling but during their first searches quickly ‘learn’ that information shown is this section is mostly irrelevant to them and thus in the future simply ignore this section (Inattentional Blindness = Banner Blindness).
At this point I’d like however to point to the Austrian Supreme Court of Justice (OGH) which found in a 2009 ruling (OGH 14.07.2009, 4 Ob 62/09k, Promotion II) that the labelling of commercial content in a rural newspaper as “Promotion” is misleading as people living in the countryside (Vorarlberg: lot’s of mountains there) might misunderstand the meaning of this word (which is of latin roots and also used to describe a move in chess and the formal act of receiving a doctoral degree).
AdWords on Google Austria are however (already) labelled as “Anzeigen” (=”Ads”), so that not even Heidi and Alm-Öhi should be mistaken as to nature of the information displayed. … Well… only the OGH very persistently found that the labelling of top-ads as “Anzeigen” was not not sufficient … but that is thanks to the ECJ already ‘legal history‘ ;)
PS: Apologies for the lame metaphor… but when have YOU pondered for the last time about dancing steps?