the latest from 2am Media

13 Oct

Interflora sues Marks and Spencer over Trademark Breach with Google AdWords


In December 2008 Interflora issued a lawsuit against one of the UK’s biggest brands, namely Marks and Spencer. The court case is centred around breach of trademark.

I remember the PPC market before May 2008, before May 2008 Google had allowed trade mark owners to object to other organisations bidding on their brand terms, after May 2008 Google changed the rules for organisations in the UK and Ireland allowing them to bid on each others trademarked terms without having the chance to object. Just another way for Google to make a whole lot more money!!

Interflora brand protection

Interflora is arguing that just because Google decides to change its AdWords policy doesn’t make bidding on trademark keywords any more legal. Marks and Spencer and another company called Flowers Direct had been bidding on the Marks and Spencer which Interflora decided to take umbrage about it (rightly so due to the loss of business).

Interflora’s Marketing Director objected by saying: “We consider this is a clear case of trade mark infringement; it’s the internet equivalent of asking for a Coca Cola and being given a Pepsi.” Fair point I think!

The case got to the High Court in London and the judge there decided that the law wasn’t clear and it was referred to the European Court of Justice. Mr Justice Arnold made th point that the UK and Ireland are part of the EU and the “relevant law is, or should be, essentially the same throughout Europe.”

Why not take Google AdWords to court?

What’s unsurprising in many ways is Interflora’s decision not to take Google to court about it’s decision to have one policy in one region and not the other – still I suppose that it’s a brave company indeed that takes on the might of behemoth that is Google, you don’t attack your primary revenue provider directly for the decisions it makes, but I can’t help but wonder how Google will view Interflora’s actions and how it will effect their search results in Google’s supposedly impartial results. On top of this there is a legal precedent – Google was once taken to court by Louis Vuitton on the grounds that Google was promoting third party retailers (eBay), they lost that case, which means Interflora has had to takea different tract.

My experience of bidding on other brands

If you’ve managed a large pay per click campaign it’s likely that you’ve targeted competitor brand terms, it’s not something that I recommend doing and not something I like doing. I learned the lesson that if you’re the big boy you can only bid on brands that are as big or bigger than you, the damage that can be done to a business’ online reputation by bidding on small companies brand terms is immeasurable.

The other thing to bear in mind I suppose is, if a competitor is bidding on your brand terms and you’re not bidding on theirs, you can either ask them nicely to stop it (some industries are good like this in my experience), alternatively you can not bother about it and risk losing some customers or build another few microsites and create Adwords accounts and price your competitors out of your brand terms (I’ve had some success with this in the past).

It’s not a perfect system and Google is out to make as much money as possible, we’ll have to wait and see the outcome of the Interflora and Marks and Spencer case at the European Court of Justice.

One Response to “Interflora sues Marks and Spencer over Trademark Breach with Google AdWords”

  1. Raymond Hoser

    We’ve had a load of trademark issues with people bootlegging the registered trademark snakeman via both google adverts and also SEO for SERP known better as search engine optimisation via backlinks. Recently we successfully killed off over 800 individual webpages with backlinks running to a trademark bootlegger’s page and this was successful in getting their business off the number one search result for the trademark. Now in Australia the trademark site wins all seach engine results and by use of google alerts and similar we can and will stop bootleggers well before they start ripping off our customers via optimisation and black hat methods.

Like what you see?

If you've got a web design or internet marketing project in mind and you think we're the team for you, pop in for a coffee and a chat...

Get in touch →