Internet search giant Google has won its High Court appeal against Australia's competition watchdog over claims it engaged in misleading or deceptive advertising.
The High Court unanimously ruled in favour of Google's appeal against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today, marking the end of a five-year legal battle.
The ACCC launched legal action against Google in 2007, alleging it had engaged in misleading conduct over sponsored links that appeared on its website.
It was alleged Google and classified advertising business the Trading Post contravened the Trade Practices Act by using the names of two car dealerships unrelated to the company in sponsored advertisements between 2005 and 2008.
When users clicked on the name of the dealerships, they were directed to a website of the advertiser's choosing.
The full bench of the Federal Court upheld the ACCC's claim in April 2012 but Google appealed to the High Court.
The High Court unanimously ruled in Google's favour on the grounds the search engine did not create the sponsored links it published or displayed.
"Ordinary and reasonable users of the Google search engine would have understood that the representations conveyed by the sponsored links were those of the advertisers, and would not have concluded that Google adopted or endorsed the representations," the High Court said in a summary of the decision.
"Accordingly, Google did not engage in conduct that was misleading or deceptive."