Montblanc Sues Google to Uncover Counterfeiters’ Identities

In a case that may be watched closely by lawyers who specialize in trademark infringement, jewelry and watch manufacturer Montblanc is suing Google, demanding the search giant disclose the names of companies that are allegedly advertising counterfeits on its AdWords program.

The complaint charges that several sites that have purchased keyword advertising on Google’s United Kingdom search engine are linking to sites that sell counterfeit Montblanc merchandise. For example, it says, a search for Montblanc pens on Google.co.uk has on occasion delivered a sponsored ad that refers users to a site that does not sell authentic Montblanc pens. In some cases, the site has been “spoofed” to look like the official Montblanc site, the complaint charges.

Montblanc says it has received “numerous complaints” from customers who have purchased counterfeits from the sites in question.

The complaint further charges that while Google has removed the offending ads in the past, the ads have repeatedly reappeared. It adds that Montblanc intends to take legal action against the advertisers, but cannot currently because it does not know their identity. However, Google has told the company it cannot disclose their names without court order, it says.

The Complaint in Equity for a Bill of Discovery, filed Feb. 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks information about parties behind the disputed sites, including contact and financial information.

Google has not yet filed a response to the complaint. 

A Google spokeswoman told JCK: “According to our AdWords terms and conditions, the data we receive from our customers is private data and we will not disclose it to a third party unless we are given permission by the customer or are requested to do so by a court of law.”

The spokeswoman also referred to its policy on counterfeits on AdWords, noting that the company has policy is to act on reliable complaints about counterfeiting within 24 hours.

The filing can be seen here.