Ocker appeal win: In February this year Google won a significant appeal in Australia when the High Court of Australia (the highest court) ruled that Google was not responsible as publisher for misleading advertising produced by its search site and its AdWords service. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had issued proceedings alleging that Google was liable as publisher for the misleading conduct of its advertisers when they used competitors' trade marks as part of Google's AdWords service. The High Court held that ordinary and reasonable users of the internet would not regard Google as endorsing sponsored links but would recognise that these links were made by Google's advertisers.
Trade mark policy change: Apparently on the back of this appeal decision, Google has significantly changed its AdWords trade mark policy for a number of territories, including Australia and New Zealand, with effect from 23 April 2013. Google will no longer prevent advertisers from selecting a third party’s trade mark as a keyword in ads targeting New Zealand or Australia. Previously, if your competitor used your registered mark as a keyword in the AdWords service you could use a Google procedure to object and if successful Google would remove the offending keyword. Google's site says that trade mark owners "will still be able to complain [to Google] about the use of their trade mark in ad text". That said, Google does "encourage trade mark owners to resolve their disputes directly with the advertisers, particularly because the advertisers may have similar ads running through other companies' advertising programs." From now on, particularly in relation to use of its mark as a keyword, a trade mark owner will have to take legal action directly against the offending advertiser.