Whilst the land mark decsision relates to a case brought against Marks & Spencer by Interflora after the retail chain bought the keyword 'interflora' on Google to advertise its own flower delivery service. The High Court referred the case to the ECJ for clarification under European law, and the decision handed down on Thursday made it clear that companies have the right to expect their trademark to be protected from such practices.
"European Law must be interpreted as meaning that the proprietor of a trademark with a reputation is entitled to prevent a competitor from advertising on the basis of a keyword corresponding to that trademark," the ECJ said.
"Advertising on the basis of such a keyword is detrimental to the distinctive character of a trademark with a reputation (dilution) if, for example, it contributes to turning that trademark into a generic term."
The statements are not a final ruling, but are likely to influence the decision at the High Court and any similar cases in the future.
In terms of sports websites and football web sites, those selling top branded goods will have to make sure they have the licese agreements to use those brands in and AdWords or similar on-line advertsising medium. Google innovations like AdWords have presented unique questions that trademark law is only now providing answers for. The law is in effect catching up.
You only have to key in search words like football boots, or teamwear to see how many companies will use big brands to back up their on line advertising. We can expect to see further court cases going forward as brand owners and those they sell licenses too, protect their positions.