Google AdWords: Interflora vs Marks & Spencer
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 09:50

Following on our Google AdWords copyrights article, international flower retailer Interflora recently started a legal action against Marks & Spencer for bidding on its brand name on Google Adwords.

Should Interflora win this case, it would set a precedent in the industry in Europe at least. Numerous advertisers would then likely follow this example by following suit vs anyone advertising on comnpetition and brands. This would also mean a decrease in Google's advertising revenue generated from AdWords which is the main source of income at Google..

Online marketers, PPC profesionals are waiting for the result with great interest. A ruling in favour of Interflora would mean reviewing large volume of AdWords accounts....

Interflora's argument is the following, 'The law in the UK is still unclear on whether buying a keyword that matches another firm’s trade mark is lawful and we are determined that this should be clarified once and for all…'.

They add, 'A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice in a case about L’Oreal perfumes supports our position.  In that case, the European Court of Justice ruled that where someone rides on the coat-tails of a famous trade mark in order to benefit from the power of attraction, reputation and prestige of that mark in order to exploit the marketing effort of the brand owner then that is unlawful.  We believe that this is what Marks & Spencer is doing. Also Google operates different policies on Trade Mark usage throughout Europe for example in France they do not allow advertisers to bid on competitors’ trade mark terms.  We are therefore delighted that our case is being presented to the European Court of Justice and look forward to the law throughout the European Union being harmonised on this issue and we strongly believe this will be in favour of trade mark owners.'

Marketing Director Michael Barrringer has issued the following official statement, 'Interflora is committed to protecting its international reputation and will continue to take action against anyone using its trade mark without permission.  The latest statement on AdWords is only an ‘opinion’ with no legal effect and will not change our strategy. The cases brought by the Louis Vuitton and other French rights holders against Google are different from our case against Marks & Spencer.  Interflora is suing its competitor, M&S, not the search engine and the opinion does not deal with competitor bidding. The opinion focuses on customer confusion which again is not part of our case.  The opinion says that Google may be liable in circumstances which need to be determined by national law and it also leaves many questions unanswered.  Ultimately only the UK court (with guidance from the European Court of Justice) can decide whether the AdWords programme infringes our trade marks.'



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