The success of Internet giant Google has largely been based on something small: Internet advertising that use tiny keyword-based ads to generate billions of dollars in revenue. Given Google’s massive audience, advertisers have been willing to pay for search-based ads that deliver clicks back to their websites. Those ads appear as sponsored results alongside the organic, relevancy-based search results.
The Google model involves an auction process in which advertisers bid to place their ad against results based on the search terms entered by users. Under the model, whoever is willing to pay the most for a given term or search query has their ad appear as a “sponsored link.” Whenever a user clicks on the sponsored link, the marketer pays Google the bid amount. Each click may only cost a few pennies, but with millions of clicks every day, the keyword advertising business is a multi-billion dollar business.
My weekly technology law column (homepage version) notes that Google’s keyword advertising approach has been a huge commercial success, but it has long raised legal concerns over whether trade mark owners have rights in their marks that extend to their use as keyword advertisements. For example, would it be a trademark violation for Bell Canada to purchase keyword ads using terms such as Telus or Rogers so that its ad would appear alongside search results for the competition?
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As new top-level domains continue to enter the marketplace, one of the most controversial has been dot-sucks. The new top-level domain has generated criticism for its business model as much as for the websites that are likely to use it, with the intellectual property community describing the model behind dot-sucks as “illicit” and “predatory, exploitive, and coercive”. That recently led to a complaint to ICANN, which took the unusual step of writing to the U.S. and Canadian governments to determine whether the company behind dot-sucks was violating any national laws, claiming it “was very concerned about any possible illegality.”
The decision to include the Canadian government in the letter stems from the fact that dot-sucks is owned by a subsidiary of Momentous Corp., an Ottawa-based company. This week, the Canadian government responded to the ICANN letter, making it clear that it has absolutely no intention of intervening in the case. The key paragraph in the letter signed by Industry Canada Deputy Minister John Knobley:
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It started innocuously enough with the House of Commons Committee on Industry, Science and Technology releasing its long-awaited report on intellectual property in Canada in March 2013. The report included a recommendation that Canada ratify several international patent and trademark treaties, which came as a surprise (particularly to opposition members of parliament) since no witness had raised the issue before the committee.
Within weeks, the government accepted the recommendation and one year later it moved to ratify the treaties with scant debate or discussion. Yet the ratification of five intellectual property treaties about which few Canadians have ever heard and that seem certain to increase fees for business was only the start.
Indeed, earlier this month, the government quietly included provisions in the budget implementation bill that will radically overhaul Canadian trademark law. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes those changes have not been subject to any serious debate, discussion or public consultation.
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The Canadian government quietly tabled five intellectual property treaties in the House of Commons on Monday: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, five treaties, entitled, one, Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, adopted […]
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The leak of the Trans Pacific Partnership intellectual property chapter confirms that the many concerns about the agreement were well-founded. My earlier posts highlighted Canada’s opposition to many U.S. proposals and U.S. demands for Internet provider liability that could lead to subscriber termination, content blocking, and ISP monitoring. This post focuses on some of the anti-counterfeiting requirements in the TPP. The anti-counterfeiting issue is particularly relevant from a Canadian perspective because the government has proposed significant new anti-counterfeiting measures in Bill C-8, which is currently at second reading in the House of Commons and being studied by the Industry Committee. If the U.S. border measures demands are included in the TPP, Bill C-8 would be wholly inadequate to meet Canada’s new treaty obligations.
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