Court ruling could spell doom for Google Search ads about rival brands

In today’s interconnected world, digital advertising serves as a linchpin for businesses. As companies strive for online prominence, they frequently find themselves navigating the complex interplay between advertising strategies and intellectual property rights. Recent events in India underscore this intricacy, while a broader look at the tech world, as we recently highlighted in a case concerning 4G technology patents, suggests that such challenges are not isolated.

The Delhi High Court has shaken the pillars of online advertising with its ruling on Google’s Ads program. By placing it within the scope of the country’s Trademarks Act, the court’s decision obliges Google to exclude ads that breach trademark rights.


  • Delhi High Court ruling challenges Google’s Ads program, obliging the company to exclude ads that breach trademark rights.
  • Google’s practice of recommending competitors’ products as potential keywords is at the heart of the issue.
  • The court’s verdict sheds light on Google’s influential role in the ad business and has profound implications for digital ad operations in India.

The precipitating event for this verdict was a complaint from DRS, an Indian logistics company. Their contention was that searches for their trademark “Agarwal Packers and Movers” unexpectedly led to competitor ads, suggesting that Google was leveraging DRS’s trademark to channel users to competing sites.

Worrisome here is Google’s practice of recommending competitors’ trademarks to advertisers as potential keywords. This has dual implications: it boosts Google’s keyword sales profits and complicates matters for businesses. As reported by TechCrunch, Nithin Kamath, the mind behind Zerodha, paints a picture where companies are almost coerced into advertising against their own keywords. Should they refrain, they risk being overshadowed by competitors in search results.

Basically, the recent ruling from the Delhi High Court challenges the practice of competitors buying ads using someone else’s trademarked phrases. Imagine searching for “Nintendo Switch” and seeing an ad for “Playstation 5.” This situation essentially compels trademark holders to pay Google to retain top visibility in search results.

Google’s assertion of being a mere intermediary found little favor with the court. The verdict instead shed light on Google’s influential role, emphasizing its substantial control over its ad business. This decision, specifically in the Indian context, carries profound implications for digital ad operations.

Yet, as we’ve illuminated before, the tech domain is no stranger to intellectual property tussles, with companies and governments frequently clashing over patents and trademarks on a global scale. Google’s recent predicament in India is but a chapter in the larger narrative of intellectual property wars in the tech industry.

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