Start-up industry body, The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), lauded Delhi High Court Justice Prathiba M. Singh’s view that using a registered trademark as a keyword on Google Ads by a competitor should amount to trademark infringement.

The court added that Google Ads creates a situation where a trademark proprietor is being forced to bid for its trademark to advertise its own goods and services.

According to ADIF, in the European Union, Google investigates the use of trademarks as keywords in published ads, but in India, it refuses to do so.

“Credible Indian brands are being put in harm’s way as a result of competitors – both global and domestic – taking advantage of Google’s lax policies. All the while, Google is profiteering from the resulting situation,” ADIF said.

It added, “What is also worth noting is that the company diluted its policy standards for India in 2015 and discontinued investigating trademark infringements through keywords. Google stands to profit from the situation it has created as a result of its diluted policy standards in India.”

In a similar case earlier, Justice V Kameswar Rao of the Delhi High Court said allowing advertisers to choose a trademarked term as a keyword or interspersing it with other generic words in the ad title or ad text is an infringement. Google was asked to investigate this matter back then.

Google had argued that advertisers choose keywords and that being an intermediary, the tech giant cannot be held liable for violations is untenable.

Sijo Kuruvilla George, the Executive Director, ADIF, said: “Companies and individuals spend a considerable amount of time, effort, and resources on building a brand – an intangible asset for any business. It is unethical of Google to encash upon the goodwill and reputation of brands by allowing their competitors to use their registered trademarks as keywords in Google Ads.”

He added, “The tech giant is profiteering from this practice, all the while hurting credible Indian brands, misleading their consumers, and at times even endangering them by exposing them to scam links. There needs to be accountability.”