European Court Could Restrict Advertisers' Use of Search Keywords

Lora Bentley

Lawmakers in the U.S. are contemplating comprehensive privacy legislation for the first time, including a "do not track" mechanism for websites so that online advertisers can't collect user information without permission. At the same time, an adviser to the highest court in Europe is recommending limits on how advertisers use search keywords to boost their positions.


Specifically, The New York Times reports the European Court of Justice may soon decide to restrict advertisers from using "the names of rivals as keywords to generate sponsored links on search engines."


The court is currently reviewing a lawsuit between competing florist services. A Google search on one florist's name brings up links not only to that florist's website, but also to the sites of two competitors, and the florist argues that said search results are misleading to consumers.


Though the court previously decided that Google is not required to block advertisers from buying search keywords that are trademarks belonging to other companies, if the court adopts the advocate general's opinion, Google may still feel the impact financially when advertisers are much more careful about the keywords they choose.

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