Search engine Google has scored a legal victory in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against Louis Vuitton brand owner LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton).

The ECJ – referred the case by France’s Supreme Court – said Google’s practice of selling search words, including brand names, to advertisers did not infringe trademark law.

The findings followed LVMH’s complaint that Google’s sale of search terms under its “AdWords” system could promote the sale of fake goods if it directed consumers to unauthorised websites.

However, the court added that both Google and the advertisers could be found liable if consumers were duped into buying counterfeit goods.

It also ruled that online advertisers could not use a registered trademark as a keyword in a search without first securing the consent of the trademark owner.

LVMH said this “confirms and emphasises the critical role played by trademarks in a dynamic economy to protect innovation and the investments carried out by businesses”.

Pierre Godé, the company’s senior executive vice president, said the ECJ ruling was “a critical step towards the clarification of the rules governing online advertising”.

The case will now be returned to France’s Supreme Court for a final ruling.