Search engines such as Google often take users to online shops that are suspected of selling counterfeit goods, according to a new study. The analysis also criticizes Google for not removing such sites from its search index.

Google’s search results feature numerous references to sites that presumably sell counterfeit goods, according to the recent study Search engines: Time to step up. The research, which was published by the British online brand protection service provider Incopro, comes to an alarming conclusion: Up to 60 percent of the product-related results link to sites that presumably offer counterfeits or infringe intellectual property rights. In addition, more than one in four of these suspicious sites appear among the first three search results – in other words, in the section that receives the most clicks.

On top of that, Google is being criticized for not reacting to reports of such suspicious results. Like other search engines, the online giant does not remove such entries from its listings. “Google does not at this time de-index URLs or websites from its Web Search index on trademark grounds upon request,“ the search engine company told Incopro.

According to the study, Google itself does not take action against providers who sell suspected counterfeit products – unlike social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram or online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon. The newly published study, for its part, calls for Google to take action. In future, the US search engine provider should cooperate with companies and associations and delete suspicious pages from its search results.

If companies currently want to take action against the indexing of certain pages for trademark reasons, they have to take legal action – usually a lengthy and costly procedure. Alternatively, brand owners can check whether the page might be de-listed for other reasons. An important starting point could be copyright infringement – for example, if unauthorised images of original products are used.

For the Incopro study, search results were analysed for terms from five industries (pharmaceuticals, automotive, children’s products, safety equipment, and white goods). Next to Google, other search engines such as Bing, Baidu, or Yandex were also included. When searching for an antibiotic, up to 60 percent of the product-related search results were classified as suspicious, as were, for example, about one third of the product results for an item in the children’s goods sector.

Sources: Incopro, World Trade Review