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Google Cracks Down on Illegal Online Pharmacies

Teresa Chen

Announced on the Google Blog last week, the search engine giant has filed a federal lawsuit against a group of rogue pharmacies in an effort to stop them from advertising on its search engine and websites. Michael Zwibelman, the company's litigation counsel, notes that the advertisers have deliberately "violated policies and circumvented technological measures" by using Adwords to promote pharmacy and prescription-drug operations without verification from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Google notes that it's not only the fact that Google's policies were violated, but also that these pharmacies were offering products without a prescription, which can endanger consumer health. Zwibelman also adds, "In recent years, we have noticed a marked increase in the number of rogue pharmacies, as well an increasing sophistication in their methods." Rogue online pharmacies are a lucrative business. According to the most recent pharma-focused MarkMonitor Brandjacking Index®, online pharmacies have increased their market footprint, growing to an estimated $11 billion in sales in 2009, up from an estimated $4 billion in 2007.

With the recent move from Google, it will be interesting to watch how litigation affects this type of behavior. Brand owners bear the ultimate responsibility for protecting their intellectual property, but I think we can all agree that with the support of major companies such as Google, the fight against illegal pharmacies and counterfeit drugs will be a lot easier. As Victoria Espinel, the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, acknowledged earlier this week, "without the different parts of the Internet economy working together, it's going to be very difficult to make progress."

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