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French go after Google for brand grab

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A flurry of French advertisers have written an open letter objecting to Google's practice of putting brand names up for auction.

The statement, sent to newswires, said: "Google has crossed a line by taking the initiative this summer to launch a service that allows anyone to buy brand names as keywords to generate advertising links."

Google changed the T&Cs on its AdWords service in August to allow firms to bid for rival trademarks. This followed a European Court ruling which said the practice was acceptable, as long as the ads in question did not mislead people as to which company was behind the advert.

It said at the time: "A company advertising on Google in Europe will now be able to select trademarked terms as keywords. If, for example, a user types in a trademark of a television manufacturer, he could now find relevant and helpful advertisements from resellers, review sites and second hand dealers as well as ads from other manufacturers."

The ad giant said any company with concerns could complain about a specific advert and Google would investigate.

Google rejected the claims of French advertisers. It said: "This change brings our trademark policy in Europe into line with our policies across the rest of the world and enables users to access more relevant information," according to AFP.

The complaint was first made by ad group UDA, which represents firms including Air France, Nestle and BNP Paribas. It has now been joined by three other associations including manufacturing association UNIFAB, which includes luxury brand Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) among its members.

LVMH has taken previous action against Google, and sued eBay for alleged trademark abuse. ®

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