BC Court Orders Google to Delist Advertiser

In the terms of use (which few of us read) Google search it very clearly states that “All claims arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services will be litigated exclusively in the federal or state courts of Santa Clara County, California, USA”.

Unfortunately for Google, a recent British Columbia Case reminds us that what is written in in the terms of use is not the be all and end all on the subject. The case revolved around a dispute where one company was selling products made using the IP, or technology, of another company.

As often happens, the infringer was selling the products through many different websites and advertising those sites through Google. After Google agreed to ‘take down’ 345 websites selling the products more websites continued to pop up and the owner of the IP found themselves in what looked like it would be an endless game of cat and mouse. Finally the owner of the IP applied for an injunction to have Google block an entire category of websites from its search results.

As part of its opposition, Google claimed BC had no jurisdiction over Google’s activities as Google did not have offices and was not registered in BC. Intuitively we understand that Google does operate in BC (much as it does most anywhere with Internet access) so Google’s opposition may seem ridiculous. The legal test however broader, as the trial judge stated, “the ability of someone in British Columbia to open a website created by a person in another country does not of itself give this Court jurisdiction over the creator of that website. Something more is required.”

The ‘something more’ would seem to be the basis for Google revenue model; advertising. But even there the trial judge was not as quick to support simple advertising in BC as enough of a connection for the court to start making orders against Google stating that “advertising in a jurisdiction is not by itself a sufficient connection to establish” the courts’ jurisdiction.

Ultimately the court decided that the Google’s acting as an advertising hub was sufficient for the court to exercise its powers and order Google to remove the search results. Google pointed out to the judge that such a decision would mean that essentially every court in the world would have similar powers. The judge’s response … “That maybe so” but she said it was a natural consequence of how Google operates.

The conclusion is a broad warning to all who operate on the Internet, if you are conducting business in area you risk being subject to the laws of that jurisdiction. So just because you can sell and advertise globally ask yourself if you really need to sell and advertise globally.