The civil court in Nanterre, near Paris, last week fined Google €75,000 ($126,000) and gave the company 30 days to stop the practice, common at internet search services.
If it is upheld on appeal and validated in other countries, the decision could force the search services to pre-screen search terms for trademarks before letting advertisers use them.
It is not the first time the French legal system has taken aim at the internet. In November 2000 a French judge ordered the internet giant Yahoo! to bar people in France from accessing sites selling Nazi memorabilia in a case that sparked a trans-Atlantic legal spat. Timothy Koogle, the company’s former chief executive, was acquitted earlier this year on charges he condoned war crimes by selling the items on Yahoo! sites.
In the trademark case, the owner of the name, internet travel agent, Bourse des Vols, wanted Google to stop allowing competitors to include its name as a term that would generate an advertisement and link to their own site that internet searchers could click on.
Google had refused, arguing its French arm was not responsible, that the term Bourse des Vols was not protected by a valid trademark and that the issue was technological and could not be resolved.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it would appeal against the decision and declined further comment.