*A Fine Piece Of Lobbying – Or – Why The European Parliament Is Suddenly Concerned About Keyword Advertising and TM-Rights

What is the connection between the booking of signs identical with a trademark as a keyword and the impact of advertising on consumer behaviour?

Pretty much none in my opinion. About a month a go I was surprised to find a passage about keyword advertising buried somewhere towards the end of an otherwise unexciting report by Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection:

Accordingly, the rapporteur proposes the following measures to protect consumers:

[…]

– modifying the limited liability regime for information society services in order to make the sale by search engines of registered brand names as advertising keywords subject to prior authorisation from the owner of the brand name in question (this applies, for example, to sites containing a keyword that redirects consumers to counterfeit sites) [p 11 , 12]


Things however got really interesting when I learnt that the European Parliament just one month later had already adopted the text of the report:

25.  Calls on the Commission to explore the various means (whether legislative or not) and ascertain the technical options at European Union level to effectively implement the following measures:

– modify the limited liability regime for information society services in order to make the sale by search engines of registered brand names as advertising keywords subject to prior authorisation from the owner of the brand name in question;


What a splendid piece of lobbying. The passages cited above are buried in text which is mainly dealing with on-line privacy and the only reason I can see for it is that the lobby of trademark holders seems to have accepted that under the current legal regime keyword advertising does not violating EU trademark law and  thus… they are working hard on changing that by means of the so-called “bus-strategy” (thanks to Prof. Spindler for teaching me this word). Bus strategy stands for burying delicate issues in the middle of an otherwise unsuspicious, irrelevant (and boring) text, hoping that “everybody on the bus will haven fallen asleep ” by the time it is read out in the parliament thus making it pass the parliament fairly unnoticed & undisputed.

 

For a list of some  of the controversial issues related to this topic (e.g. effects onto freedom of speech, ability to compare the pricing or product reviews, sales of second hand goods) please see the opinion of the GA Maduro in Google France:

111. Accordingly, the access of internet users to information concerning the trade mark should not be limited to or by the trade mark proprietor. […] by claiming the right to exert control over keywords which correspond to trade marks in advertising systems such as AdWords, trade mark proprietors could de facto prevent internet users from viewing other parties’ ads for perfectly legitimate activities related to the trade marks. That would, for instance, affect sites dedicated to product reviews, price comparisons or sales of second‑hand goods.


Ok, but that’s democracy; so let’s see what Google will come up with…

.

PS: Questions: is there a possibility to find out which (e.g. Austrian) members of the EP have voted on this document? Would be interesting to see if they actually knew what they were voting on😉

1 Response to “*A Fine Piece Of Lobbying – Or – Why The European Parliament Is Suddenly Concerned About Keyword Advertising and TM-Rights”


  1. 1 Lassi 02/01/2011 at 07:19

    They seem to have had a separate vote from a Green initiative in the plenary on that one, but no roll-call vote so you can’t see who voted for what
    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+PV+20101215+RES-VOT+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN


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