By  on September 23, 2009

PARIS — Google Inc. has won the latest round in a long-running court case that has it pitted against luxury goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA.

On Tuesday, an adviser to the European Union’s highest court backed Google Inc., saying the site should be able to continue selling trademark-protected terms as key words that link Internet searches to advertisements. Internet ads linked to key words generate most of Google’s revenue.

In a nonbinding opinion to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, advocate general Luis Miguel Poiares Pessoa Maduro said Google doesn’t violate European Union trademark law by allowing advertisers to buy key words corresponding to registered trademarks.

LVMH had argued this practice violates trademark rights and provides links to sites selling counterfeit goods, while Google had pointed out it should be up to its advertisers to ensure they don’t infringe on trademarks.

The European Court of Justice was asked to rule on the issue after a French court sided with LVMH.

However, Google may be liable if it features content that involves trademark infringement, with the burden of proof lying with the trademark owners, the adviser said.

The case will return to the European Court of Justice, when a full panel of judges will decide the outcome “at a later date,” according to a document posted on the court’s Web site. Judges follow the initial opinions of its advisers in about 80 percent of cases.

Google, owner of the most-used Internet search engine, and LVMH have been fighting in France since 2003 over Internet searches linked to trademark names.

In 2006, the Paris Central Court ordered Google to pay LVMH 300,000 euros, or $443,859 at average exchange rates for the period, for trademark infringement.

Last week, a Paris court ruled in favor of LVMH in a similar case against eBay for allowing the sale on its auction site of counterfeit fragrances.

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