In what appears to be the first-ever Internet-related ruling on keywords worldwide, Monsterboard.nl, a subsidiary of American careers Web site Monster.com, is to stop linking its banner advertisement to the keyword “Intermediair” on Dutch search engine Vindex, as the result of a ruling by the court in The Hague which found Monsterboard.nl guilty of trademark infringement in a case brought by Dutch publisher VNU.
Judge J. W. du Pon found that by linking a banner ad to “Intermediair” — which besides being an ordinary Dutch word is a well known VNU magazine and Web site offering jobs and career tips — Monsterboard.nl is infringing VNU’s trademark.
Like many search engines, Vindex offers advertisers the option of linking their ad to keywords. The banner ad will then appear on the page that shows the results of a query that contains that specific keyword.
Judge du Pon ruled that Monsterboard is to stop linking its advertisement with “Intermediair” or face penalties of 10,000 guilders (US$4,700) per day while the link is still active.
The company claimed it was not breaking any trademark laws because it is not explicitly using the word “Intermediair”. The individual using the search engine is the one that enters the word. Judge du Pon says in his ruling that the company is indeed infringing on VNU’s trademark because Monsterboard ordered Vindex to link the search term with its advertisement, and that is where the infringement takes place.
The fact that “Intermediair” is also a Dutch word, meaning “intermediary” doesn’t let Monsterboard.nl off the hook. Lawyers for the Dutch-American careers web site had argued that “Intermediair” could not possibly be a brand name because it is not a distinguishing term. Judge Du Pon disagreed. “The fact that ‘Intermediair’ is synonymous with other Dutch words does not mean that it can’t be recognized as a brand name,” he said.
Martijn van de Heuvel, spokesman for Monsterboard.nl, said the company is contemplating its next move. It has six months to appeal.