Skip to Main Content
The Internet is often described as a free and open communication space, accessible to all and allowing access to any and all. The question put in this paper is, generally, how freely accessible this space is, and in how far there may be restraints imposed by intellectual property owners, in particular in and in the context of the area of searching and the use of search engines. Conflicts arise especially on the use of meta tags in search engines. Meta tags are indeed important tools in searching for sites and names on the Internet. Hence, they may acquire an economic and financial value. As a counterpoint to that valorization, however, they may be abused to distort competition and to impinge on intellectual property rights of those mentioned in the meta tags. The emerging meta tag litigation in different countries, including the U.S. and several European countries among which Germany, Italy, Denmark and Belgium, is used in this paper, after a jurisprudential analysis, as a qualitative proxy for indicating, from a legal policy viewpoint, limits on free searching and reaching of Web sites, in particular as regards the restraints that may properly be imposed by intellectual property owners on meta tagging of names that are protected by their trademark rights, or by search engines to reduce spamming.