Using trade marks as keywords and metatags on the internet: An
With the rise in prominence of the internet as both an
advertising medium and a vehicle for online retailing services,
there has been much worldwide controversy by trade mark owners
surrounding the use by competitors and counterfeiters of their
trade marks as a keyword and/or metatag in internet
Keywords and metatags can be explained in simple terms as
computer code contained in a web page that is not visible to
internet users but provides indexing information for internet
search engines. Keywords are often purchased by website operators
from internet search engines in order to have their website
prioritised in search results for that keyword. These results
appear before the genuine search results and are usually identified
by descriptions such as "sponsored links" (Google).
In Australia, the question to be addressed in determining
whether trade mark infringement has occurred is whether use of the
trade mark as a keyword or metatag is use of a sign to indicate the
origin of goods and/or services. The answer to that question has
not yet been clearly established in Australia. Despite this, the
use by a trade mark owner's competitors or counterfeiters
of its trade mark as a keyword or metatag remains a source of
frustration and continues to be perceived as providing an unfair
Trade mark owners should therefore bear in mind that relief may
be available to them by utilising the complaints procedure of the
relevant internet search engine. For example, in Australia upon
receipt of a complaint from a trade mark owner that its trade mark
is being infringed, Google will investigate the content of the
identified website and any related keywords and require removal of
any unauthorised use of another party's trade mark.
What this issue does clearly highlight is the need for trade
mark owners to remain diligent in monitoring the market place for
use by other parties of its trade marks and to take active steps to
protect their intellectual property.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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