In the ongoing court case between Google India and Chennai-based Consim Info, which runs matrimony websites Bharat Matrimony, Tamil Matrimony and Telugu Matrimony, a Madras High Court Bench, dismissed an appeal filed by Consim against Google India Pvt Ltd and four other firms and upheld a single judge order that Google India did not deprive Consim Info the benefit of their trademark policy and protected their trademarks, including Bharat Matrimony, reports PTI (via The Economic Times).

Consim Info CEO, Murugavel Janakiraman, refused to comment on the matter saying that he has still not received a copy of the court judgement.

Google should stick to present policy: According to the PTI report, the court said that it was sufficient to direct Google India to adhere to its present business policy as stated by its counsel, and that Consim Info’s registered trademarks would be protected by ensuring that others did not use them in their “ad words“. The court ruled that other issues had to be decided only during the course of the trial and that the present arrangement based on the undertaking given by Google and other respondents, which has been in force for nearly three years, should not be disturbed or deviated, till the disposal of the suit

The report notes that the Bench has also requested the single judge to dispose of the suit, preferably before 2013-end as per merits and law, “without being influenced by observations made in this judgment.”

On key words: The bench said that Google could have used other words as key words on sponsored links so as to avoid confusion, although the single judge had given the benefit of doubt to Google on choice of words “Tamil”, “Matrimony”, and had said that the choice may not have been deliberate. In disagreement with the sigle judge verdict, the bech said: ” The learned Judge held that the grant of an order of injunction  would lead to the consequence of reducing the choice of words available to competitors, to a very few and resulting in the appellant’s monopolising the English word ‘Matrimony’. In this connection, the respondents (other matrimonial site) have not pleaded with regard to alternative synonym for the words ‘Tamil’, ‘Malayalam’, ‘Telugu’, ‘Matrimony’ etc.In the absence of any pleading with regard to the same, we are not agreeing with the finding of the learned single Judge that by preventing the use of the words would leave the respondents with a very limited choice of words.”

Google’s policies differ depending on the region: The Bench also said Google appears to have taken steps to protect possible infringement of trademarks by advertisers. However, it noted that that Google was adopting different policies in different regions, and had not explained the rationale for doing so. It said: “It is pertinent to note that Google is adopting different policies in different regions. The rationale behind the difference in policy has not been explained by the Google.”

In its defence, Google said that their relationship with those, advertising products and services is governed by Advertising Program terms, Advertising policy and editorial Guidelines and Adwords and Adsense Trademark Policy, and that advertisers are solely responsible for ad targeting options and keywords and all ad content, ad information and ad URLs.

Our take on the controversy: We’ve always felt that advertisements that use competitive trademarks as display words, that mislead consumers, should not be allowed. At the same time, we don’t see any harm in allowing bidding on keywords that are competitors trademarks.

Timeline: 

– In 2009, Chennai-based Consim Info, that runs Bharatmatrimony.com, had petitioned the Madras High Court against Google for displaying their competitors’ ads on Google search result page when someone searches for ‘bharatmatrimony’, and taken Google, Shaadi.com and SimplyMarry.com to court. The court had initially granted an ex-party interim injunction that prevented the usage of Consim Info registered trademarks in AdWords advertising, and stopped the defendents from bidding on/allowing bidding on Consim Info’s trademarks.

–  However, in October 2010, the Court had vacated the interim injunction granted to Consim Info, and had directed Google India to adhere to its present business policy. The court had also directed that Consim Info’s trademarks (Bharatmatrimony.com, TamilMatrimony.com, TeluguMatrimony.com etc) be not used in AdWords. So the verdict was in a way in favour of Google.

– Consim had then appealed against the decision made by the Court, before a Division Bench of the Madras High Court.