Update: we spoke to Consim Info CEO Murugavel Janakiraman about what they seek to achieve from this case.
Earlier: In what is clearly going to be a precedence setting case for competitive advertising on the web, as far as Indian jurisdiction is concerned, Consim Info (Bharatmatrimony) has taken Google, Jeevansathi, Shaadi and SimplyMarry to court for trademark infringement, report MoneyControl and Business Standard. The bone of contention appears to be the sponsored competitive advertisements that appear on Google search results, as well as during keyword suggestion for Google AdWords. It’s quite another thing that Consim Info is doing the same thing – advertising on search results for search results for Shaadi.com, Jeevansathi.com and SimplyMarry.com. Screenshots:
When contacted by MediaNama, Google India declined to comment, saying that the matter is sub-judice. Info Edge said that they’re yet to receive a copy of the order. We’ll update with responses from Consim Info and People Interactive (Shaadi).
The Purpose Of The Case? Implications For Adwords
The money demanded by Consim Info for infringement (Rs. 10.5 lakh) is minimal, when it comes to court cases, but this clearly isn’t about the money. Organic search and sponsored search results are a source of profile registrations for matrimonial services. This injuction appears to have been given ex-party, which means none of the defendents were present, and arguments from both sides will be heard as the case progresses.
If it is passed in its current form, Consim Info, which has trademarked a number of matrimonial names like Tamil Matrimony, which it has portals for. I think it’s important to note that Consim Info has recently launched some 250 sites as a part of the domain communitymatrimony.com – domains like AgarwalMatrimony.com, BrahminMatrimony.com, KayasthaMatrimony.com. We’re not sure if these are registered as trademarks as well, but if so, then the company could kill competitive activity on the web if its plea is upheld in court. That would be a pretty smart move.
Google’s Adwords policy regarding trademarks is as follows:
From Google Adwords’ Trademark Policy: “Depending on the regions in which you have trademark rights, we may investigate the use of trademarks in ad text only or in ad text and keywords. Please note the regions we will investigate ad text only. We will not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint.”
And from the update to this policy : “Google has made a policy revision that applies to complaints we receive regarding trademark use in keywords. Beginning 4 June 2009, keywords that were restricted as a result of a trademark investigation will no longer be restricted in the following regions: (including India)”
Thus, Google might have to restrict keywords under trademark investigation.
It’s strange that Consim Info itself continues to advertise on competitive keywords (our screencaps were taken this morning, while the injunction was passed last week). Note that our search queries were not generics like Shaadi, but specific brands like Shaadi.com, Jeevansathi.com and SimplyMarry.com. However, such an argument would strengthen Frankly, what Consim Info does on its properties is its ownership, but when it comes to an advertising platform like Google Adwords, we think competitive activity on keywords should not be restricted, unless there is an explicit exclusivity clause signed with Google.