Expert: What Google’s de-listing of fake goods means for merchants, brands | BizReport
According to reports most Google searches point consumers to fake goods, but for a long time Google has refused to remove these listings. However, the search engine has announced that as of this month, they’ll begin de-indexing fake goods listings after reviewing the products – and companies – on offer. This is a strong move forward but according to one expert it isn’t enough.
“Google’s approach to evaluating trademark infringing websites has long been out of sync with its approach to evaluating copyright infringement and other claims. This meant that when Google was told that it was indexing and returning search results for a webpage or website that is selling counterfeit products, it did not take action. Specifically, Google would not de-index URLs that offered counterfeit products. It would not – and still will not – de-index websites dedicated to selling counterfeit products. This refusal to act has put consumers at risk and harmed the companies targeted. This new development comes as legislative and regulatory pressure on Internet platforms intensifies (in particular through the Digital Services Act) . It also follows sustained lobbying from stakeholders in the industry, including from Incopro, who for a long time have campaigned for Google to move to a position which gives equivalent, far greater protection to trade marks, brands and their consumers,” said Michael Sweeney, Senior Legal Counsel, Incopro.
An Incopro report from the fall found that 6 in 10 search queries resulted in listings for fake merchandise – imitation handbags from top designers, imitation shoes, and the list goes on. They also found that nearly half (47%) of traffic to those fake sites came from shoppers who had used a brand’s name or keywords for a brand and instead found their counterfeit counterparts. This is troubling not only for the people who are scammed but for the legitimate brands who are having their goods counterfeited and who are losing customers because they are blamed for the fake goods.
“Until now, brands whose trade marks are infringed online had to obtain a Court Order before Google would agree to evaluate trade mark infringement and requests around de-indexing infringing results from organic search. This development represents a significant change to that position, alleviating rights holders from the cost and inconvenience of having to secure Court Orders before approaching Google,” said Sweeney. “Whilst this is a positive step forward for brands and consumers, there is still much more to be done. In particular, Google will only remove individual URLs from organic search that it has been notified as infringing. They will not remove entire websites from organic search – even for websites dedicated to selling counterfeit goods which serve no legitimate purpose. This is likely to leave brands in the unsatisfactory position of potentially having to file separate notices in respect of each individual URL, of which there can be a great many. Any solution which Google deploys to address this issue must be scalable and this recent development does not go far enough.”
Sweeney doesn’t believe legitimate brands or listings will be caught up in Google’s foray into de-listing fake goods, but notes that this could happen. In which case, he believes an appeal to Google should return the legitimate site’s listings to being indexed for the search engine.
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