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Montblanc Files Lawsuit Against Google Over Misleading Adverts

German maker of watchesand writing instruments takes Google to court over counterfeiters abusing AdWords program

Montblanc, the German manufacturer of writing instruments, watches and other accessories, is taking Google to court over the identity of counterfeiters using the AdWords program.

Montblanc claims it has received complaints from customers who clicked on the search engine’s adverts and were tricked into purchasing items from imitated sites. The company is requesting that Google US provides details of any counterfeiters using the service to pursue a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Counterfeiters’ IDs

According to court documents obtained by TechCrunch, search terms like ‘Montblanc pens’ produced the misleading adverts that appeared on Google.co.uk. However, the UK arm was unable to identify the offending advertisers, claiming they didn’t have the information, and suggested Montblanc take the case up with Google US.

“Montblanc has attempted to determine the identity of the advertisers through numerous alternative means, with no success,” read the documented explanation. “Because the identity of the advertisers is in the exclusive possession of Google, and Montblanc has no other source from which to obtain the requested information, Montblanc has no choice but to file this complaint in Equity for a Bill of Discovery in order to enforce its trademark rights.”

The file goes on to explain that a copyright lawsuit will be filed as soon as the advertisers are revealed, but that the company is currently aimless in who to pursue. Montblanc claims “significant reputational and financial harm” through the sale of the counterfeit goods, but acknowledged Google’s aid with taking harmful ads down over the years.

The company currently operates a 24-hour complaints turnaround policy and states that bad ads affect the search engine’s reputation as much as the legitimate product manufacturer’s.

Past bad ads

Google has previously been criticised for misuse of its advertising platform, having last year paid out $500 million (£303m) to the US Department of Justice to settle allegations that it allowed Canadian pharmacies to target US consumers through the medium. More recently, it admitted profiting from illegal ads for fake IDs and cannabis, as well as pushing fake Olympics tickets sites to the top of search pages.

“We have a set of policies covering which ads can and cannot show on Google,” said a Google spokesman, speaking in January. “These policies and guidelines are enforced by both automated systems and human beings. When we are informed of ads which break our policies, we investigate and remove them if appropriate. For example, working with the police, we have recently taken down a number of violating Olympics ads.”