Use of misleading metatags is unfair competition, says court


According to a judgment of the District Court of Düsseldorf (12 O 48/02), the use of words as metatags that are not directly related to the content of a website is an infringement of the German Law against Unfair Competition.

An interim injunction was filed by a clothing company against an online competitor. The competitor used words including 'university', 'judgment' and 'German Code of Civil Procedure' as metatags in the source code of its homepage, which had nothing to do with the offers or information provided on the site. The petitioner objected to the use of these words, arguing that a metatag not related to the content of a website serves only to intercept customers and re-route them.

The court agreed with the petitioner, stating that metatags should serve both the advertiser's and customers' needs. Metatags attract customers' attention as they describe what is offered on a website. However, websites containing metatags not associated with their content infringe unfair competition rules as customers are molested in an unreasonable way. They must expend more time and money working their way through search results. Then, they are taken to a site that does not contain the information they were expecting.

Horst Daniel, Faegre Benson Brendel, Frankfurt

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