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France court blow for Google

Paris, Oct. 18 (Reuters): A French court has ruled against Internet search powerhouse Google Inc in an intellectual property rights case that could have far reaching technological and financial implications for web search firms, who process tens of millions of queries a day.

The civil court in Nanterre, near Paris, fined privately-held Google 75,000 euros for allowing advertisers to link text Internet advertisements to trademarked search terms and gave the company 30 days to stop the practice, common at Internet search services. The ruling, handed down earlier this week, is believed to be the first in which the owner of a trademarked term successfully sued an Internet search service over the practice of allowing advertisers to use protected terms in text ads.

If it was upheld on appeal and validated in other countries the decision could force the search services to pre-screen search terms for trademarks before letting advertisers use them. It was not the first time the French legal system has taken aim at the Internet. In November 2000, a French judge ordered Internet giant Yahoo to bar people in France from accessing sites selling Nazi memorabilia in a case that sparked a trans-Atlantic legal spat. Timothy Koogle, the company’s one-time chief executive, was acquitted of charges that he condoned war crimes by selling the items on Yahoo sites.

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