Travel brands unite with other retailers in legal threat against Google

Kevin May
Kevin May
May 23, 2008 12:04 PM GMT

Google could be on the receiving end of a major cross-industry legal action – including a number of large travel companies – as a result of controversial changes to its brand name bidding policy.

It has emerged this week that a group of at least ten major consumer brands is considering a joint bid to overturn Google’s decision to allow companies to bid on one another’s brand names in its paid search listings.

Travolution can also reveal that a meeting is taking place in London today (Friday 23 May) to determine what steps can be taken as part of a joint legal challenge against the search engine giant.

The group is understood to include at least four travel companies, a major financial services organisation, two High Street retailers and a leading media provider. The meeting included a representative from ABTA.

A senior travel industry source told Travolution. “In the world of large corporates, there is a close knit community of legal advisors.

“Some companies across different industries share the same counsel or have connections to other senior advisors at other law firms.

“Many [advertisers] have had enough and feel let down by Google over this issue and are ready to make their move. There is also a strong sense that any action taken as a group will show solidarity and provide a strong counterweight to the might of Google.”

Another senior figure close to the latest development said: “The wagons are beginning to circle and this could become very interesting indeed.”

A Google spokesman said the company was not aware of any such legal action and restated its position – given to Travolution two weeks ago – on the policy change, implemented earlier this month.

“Google conducted a full legal and business review before making changes to our trademark policy in the UK and Ireland,” the spokesman said. “We are confident that the changes are compliant with UK and Irish law.”

Companies which have stated they are considering their legal position include Lastminute.com, Saga Group, Tesco and Arcadia (owner of the Top Shop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins brands).

A Tesco spokesman said: "We are disappointed at Google's recent changes to their trademark policy as we think that consumers are the people who will be disadvantaged.

“For the time being we will take a wait and see approach of how we respond to the changes, however, we will be guided by what's in the best interests of our customers."

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