Australian consumer watchdog appeals Google AdWords case

Posted On October 25, 2011
In Trade Marks in Cyberspace / Reply

The Australian consumer protection authority, the ACCC, has appealed its Federal Court action against Google for misleading or deceiving consumers with AdWords-generated sponsored links. The ACCC sought declarations and injunctions against Google, on the basis that AdWords-generated sponsored links wrongly represented an association or affiliation between the advertiser and the advertiser’s competitor whose name or trademark was used as the AdWords keyword. In the first instance decision, Nicholas J agreed that the advertisements amounted to misleading or deceptive representations, but found that these representations were made by the advertiser, not Google. Accordingly, the action against Google was dismissed.

The ACCC has appealed Nicholas J’s decision to the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia. In its press release announcing the appeal, the ACCC claims that Nicholas J’s conclusion is based on precedents concerning publishers of advertisements in traditional media, such as print and television, which do not apply to search engine providers. The ACCC believes search engine providers must be held “directly accountable for misleading or deceptive paid search results when they have been closely engaged in presenting and publishing those results”.

The appeal is expected to be heard in the first half of 2012.

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