Posts Tagged 'Edi Koblmüller'

*Defeat For Google – Victory For TM-owners? Austrian OGH First National Court To Decide On Keyword Advertising: OGH 21.06.2010, 17 Ob 3/10f, Bergspechte

The Austrian Supreme (OGH) court ruled on the 21st of June 2010 in 17 Ob 3/10f BergSpechte, that even ads that don’t contain the third party trademark may lead to a likelihood of confusion. As a result the advertiser violated § 10 (1) Z 2 MSchG (= Art 5 (1) lit b ECD = § 14 (2) Z 2 dMSchG). To my knowledge the Austrian court is the first national court to render a decision based on the ECJ’s keyword advertising decisions.

The court based its reasoning on the fact that the advertiser had failed to rule out any likelihood of confusion by adding ‘appropriate clarifying indications‘. The (Display-)URL shown below the ad of the defendant (‘www.trekking.at‘) was however the decisive issue in the case as the court found that this (generic) URL would make it ‘appear more likely for an internet-users to assume that a connection between the ad and the TM-owner or a entity economically connected to the TM-owner exists, as both search terms used (‘Edi Koblmüller‘, ‘Bergspechte‘) were highly original and did not at all describe the services advertised. As a consequence the court ruled that a likelihood of confusion existed.

As the decision only deals with the admissibility of an interim injunction the attorney of the defendant, RA Dr. Michael Wukoschitz,  has called the ruling a Pyrrhic-victory as the defendant was not generally forbidden to use the TM of the claimant but only forbidden to use it in a misleading way. As the court has found that the ads in question (please see illustration/image below) are deemed to be misleading this might only be a small comfort. Taking into account that the OGH’s decision might have been a different one if the claimant had used a non-generic but very distinctive URL, it remains to see how the OGH will decide in such a case.


Discussion:

The decision itself is quite surprising, especially in the light of Google’s recent policy reform and the fact that the German Supreme Court (BGH) found that it would be ‘far fetched’ to assume that users would establish a connection between their search queries and the ads displayed (para 19 BGH, I ZR 125/07, Bananabay, GRUR 2009, 498).

Looking at the decision itself, it soon becomes obvious that it comes from the same judge who has already made an unfortunate ruling in the Wein&Co case, which was equally questionable. What especially strikes me is the how easily the court established a likelihood of confusion. This is especially so as the ads were aiming at mainly young people who plan to travel the world ‘off the beaten tracks‘ and I do think it is questionable that someone who is planning to cycle through Ethiopia on his bike won’t pay a bit more attention to the search results when preparing the trip. But well, it still seems that the Austrian Supreme court sticks to an average Austrian internet user who is probably best described as fairly internet-illiterate or at least far from being web-savvy.

Furthermore I wonder what an ad would need to look like not to confuse and average Austrian internet user. What is the advertiser does not have a (distinctive) domain which clearly indicated him/her as being a separate entity and moreover, not economically connected to the TM-owner? So it might be a good thing that the OGH considered the Display-URL but its conclusion somehow fail to convince. Should the Display-URL be really the decisive factor? What about all the happy second-domain-owners which own e.g the much sought-after domains www.laws.at, www.sarcasm.at, http://www.bike.co.uk or other generic terms. Should they be disadvantaged when using keyword advertising?

I think the decision still has got its flaws and is based on an internet-illiterate user, but on the positive side, for once the court was forced by the ECJ to at least finally get the separation between the search results and the ads right (para 1). That’ at least some progress! The second positive issue is that the court declined the plaintiffs claim to generally forbid the plaintiff to use its trademark. So yes, the use of third party TM as keywords is also allowed in Austria, only problem, nobody can tell advertisers under which conditions….


What did the ad look like:

The original Side-Ad looked roughly looked like that (reconstruction by Austrotrabant):

Rough translation of the text of the ad by Austrotrabant:

Ethiopia per bike
trip of a lifetime through the north with
lots of culture. Sixteen days from 20.10.
http://www.trekking.at

English translation by Austrotrabant:

10 …In none of the two ads it has been put straight through appropriate indications, that no economical connection between the plaintiff and the defendant exists. In both cases only the Internet-address of the defendant was supplied (http://www.trekking.at), which because of the generic term used, lead to no attribution to a particular entity. Both offers [ads] concerned outdoor-tours, as also offered by the plaintiff

11 For a normally informed and reasonably attentive internet user it was thus not cognizable that the ads [ads] stem from an entity which is not economically connected with the plaintiff. It appeared more likely [ … es lag vielmehr nahe  zu vermuten … ] to assume the opposite as both search terms showed a high degree of originality and not even vaguely describe the services offered [advertised]


German version:

10. Im vorliegenden Fall geht es um zwei Anzeigen, von denen eine bei Eingabe des Suchwortes “Eid Koblmüller” aufgerufen wurde, die andere bei Eingabe von “Bergspechte”. In beiden Anzeigen wird für Reisen geworben (“Trekking- und Naturreisen zu den letzten Berggorillas oder Wandern auf alten Pilgerrouten”, “Äthiopien mit dem Bike, Traumreise durch den Norden mit viel Kultur, 16 Tage, ab 20.10.”). In keiner der beiden Anzeigen wurde durch einen entsprechenden Hinweis klargestellt, dass keine wirtschaftliche Verbindung zwischen der Klägerin und der Zweitbeklagten besteht. Angegeben waren jeweils nur die die Internetadresse der Zweitbeklagten (http://www.trekking.at), die aufgrund des verwendeten Gattungsbegriffes keine Zuordnung zu einem bestimmten Unternehmen erkennen lässt. Gegenstand des Angebots waren jeweils Outdoor-Reisen, wie sie auch die Klägerin anbietet.


11. Für einen normal informierten und angemessen aufmerksamen Internetbenutzer war damit nicht zu erkennen, dass die Anzeige von einem Anbieter stammen, der mit der Klägerin in keiner Weise wirtschaftlich verbunden ist. Es lag für ihn vielmehr nahe, das Gegenteil zu vermuten, weil beide Suchworte ein hohes Maß an Originalität aufweisen und die angebotenen Dienstleistungen nicht einmal ansatzweise beschreiben.

12. Der normal informierte und angemessen aufmerksame Internetnutzer konnte daher annehmen, durch Anklicken der jeweiligen Überschriften auf Seiten zu gelangen, die, wenn nicht von der Klägerin, so doch von einem ihr wirtschaftlich verbundenen Unternehmen betrieben werden. Der dadurch begründeten Verwechslungsgefahr hätten die Beklagten durch entsprechende Gestaltung der Anzeigen, wie etwa durch Aufnahme eines aufklärenden Hinweises, entgegenwirken müssen (s Anderl, Anm zu C-278/08 – Bergspechte II, ecolex 2010, 477f; Stadler, EuGH: Google verletzt mit AdWords keine Markenrechte, MMR Fokus, MMR 5/2010, VIII).

13. Als Zwischenergebnis ist daher festzuhalten, dass die durch die Verwendung einer Marke (eines Markenbestandteiles) als Keyword generierte Werbung eines Dritten (der Beklagten) in die Recht des Markeninhabers nur dann nicht eingreift, wenn aus dieser Werbung für einen normal informierten und angemessen aufmerksamen Internetnutzer leicht zu erkennen ist, dass die in der Anzeige beworbenen Waren oder Dienstleistungen weder vom Inhaber der Marke noch von einem mit ihm wirtschaftlich verbundenen Unternehmen stammen.

(emphasis added by Austotrabant)


[Word game?: the BGH used the expression ‘far fetched’ (fern liegend) while the Austrian court used exactly the opposite version of the expression “close guess” (nahe liegend). Coincidence?]


UPDATE (22.08.2010): The Austrian court has published the decision. I placed a link to the document at the beginning of this post.

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*Claimants Attorney in Austrian Bergspechte Case Optimistic About Victory

Although shortly after the ECJ’s decision on Google France the media spoke largely about a victory for Google, its now the national courts turn and the picture that is drawn by some Austrian jurists, not only by the attorney of the Austrian claimant, is not that positive for Google and predicts a victory for the claimants.

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Having pondered about the ECJ’s Google France and Berspechte ruling quite some time, it seems to me that the optimism of the claimants attorney is might not be unfounded.

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In its previous decision on Bergspechte (OGH, 20.05.2008, 17 Ob3/08b), the court has ruled under VI, 8 that:

Es ist daher jedenfalls nicht ausgeschlossen, dass der durchschnittlich informierte, aufmerksame und verständige Internetnutzer die Marke und die Werbung gedanklich miteinander verknüpft. Unter dieser Voraussetzung ist die Verwendung der Marke als Keyword grundsätzlich geeignet, die Herkunftsfunktion der Marke zu beeinträchtigen.

Rough translation by Austrotrabant: “It thus  cannot be excluded that the reasonable [etc.] user establishes a mental link between the trade mark and the ad. Under these circumstances the use of a trade mark appears suitable to impair the function of origin of a trade mark.”

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Thus, adding the assumption of the OGH to the formula of the ECJ that trademark rights are infringed..

“in the case where that ad does not enable an average internet user, or enables that user only with difficulty, to ascertain whether the goods or services referred to therein originate from the proprietor of the trade mark or an undertaking economically connected to it or, on the contrary, originate from a third party.”


Although I am personally of the opinion that an ordinary text-ad, not bearing the TM of the competitor (“Adv-“) does not impair the function of origin of a trademark and thus infringe the TM-owners right in accordance with Art 5 (1) of the Directive 89/104, the court, if it sticks with its slightly technophobic previous ruling, will most likely render a decision which will find that the defendant violated the claimants trademark rights.

If the court decides in this direction, it might be a defeat for both trade mark holder and advertisers at the same time, as the only one profiting from such a judgement would be the attorneys who have already successfully managed to convince the courts to render a decision (Wein&Co) which is – again only in my personal opinion – not only pretty much against common sense, but furthermore also neglects the fact that the internet is a steadily developing phenomenon and that it is difficult to understand how practises which used to be deemed “legal” and which have helped this medium to flourish will soon be ruled unlawful.

My personal comparison is that of people buying cheap land from the government somewhere close to railway tracks and years later suing the government for health damages caused by the noise of trains running by. So who came first, the internet & internet advertising or un-savvy internet users who expect the world to be tailored “fool-proof“?

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I am somewhat optimistic and, looking to our German neighbours, whose Supreme Court judgements are missing a certain technophobic attitude, I hope that justice will find its way, in the same way it did in the UK in Arsenal. Furthermore, I am very pleased to see that the ECJ clearly objected the OGH’s assumption that the labelling of the Top-Ads are insufficient and that thus the Top-Ads should be treated as part of the ‘organic’ search results.

And… one should not forget that, if the ECJ had ruled that Keyword Advertising would not infringe TM-rights at all, this blog would be pretty pointless 😉


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