Search engines form trademarks alliance

In-housers from leading search engine companies have formed an alliance to deal with issues thrown up by Google’s revamped keywords policy. Crucially, Google has refused to join.

The working group, which brings together in-house counsel and regulators from a number of European jurisdictions, was set up after Google allowed brands to push themselves up its search results list by bidding for rival trademarks. This led to a backlash from in-housers at leading brands, who claimed their trademarks were being infringed (The Lawyer, 2 June).

Simon Davies, chief executive officer of 80/20 Thinking, which arranged the summit, said: “Google said it didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with it and that it would do its own thing.

“Data protection is the biggest issue that they’re facing. If the policy on data protection is not resolved it could very easily become a legal quagmire.”

In-housers from AOL, BT, Microsoft and Vodafone have all joined the alliance in a bid to establish a joint policy line in response to the European Union’s Article 29 opinion on data protection and search engines. Despite being asked twice to join, Google has refused.

Robert Bond, head of IP at Speechly Bircham, which is advising 80/20 Thinking on the matter, said: “It’s no surprise that Google is ploughing its own furrow, particularly as it has been the cause of this opinion.

“The fact that other players are willing to have open dialogue is benefiting the internet service providers and regulators.”