On 19 April 2012, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a preliminary ruling (Case C-523/10 Wintersteiger AG v Products 4U Sondermaschinenbau GmbH) on the relationship between jurisdiction and a country-specific search engine website.

The matter involved the Austrian company Wintersteiger, which makes and sells various ski and snowboard servicing tools, replacement parts and accessories. Wintersteiger is also the holder of the Austrian trademark Wintersteiger. A German company Products 4U makes and sells, inter alia, accessories for Wintersteiger products, which nevertheless have not been authorized for sale by Wintersteiger.

Products 4U had reserved an AdWord in the online advertising scheme developed by Google to be used for searches carried out on the google.de website, which is mainly directed at German users. Whenever the word Wintersteiger was entered into the search engine, an advertising link appeared on the right-hand side of the website, directing the user to the Products 4U website. This advertisement did not appear on the Austrian Google website google.at. However, google.de could be entered from Austria and the countries also share the same language

The question presented to the CJEU by the Supreme Court of Austria was essentially whether an Austrian court could hear the case based on the Article 5(3) of the so called Brussels I Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001), which regulates in which circumstances a person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State. More specifically, the question presented to the CJEU was how to apply Article 5(3) in an injunction matter, where a trademark was claimed to be infringed through the use of a keyword (AdWord) on a search engine website with a country-specific top-level domain, when that domain was other than of the country, where the court has been seized?

The CJEU considered that jurisdiction in the matter could be established based on the existence of a particularly close connecting factor between the dispute and the court of the place where the harmful event occurred. Thus, it ruled that an action may be brought before either the court of the Member State in which the trade mark is registered, or the court of the Member State of the place of establishment of the advertiser.

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