Interflora sues Marks & Spencer over brand bidding
Just because Google says it’s acceptable to bid on somebody else’s brand name doesn’t mean a court will make the same ruling.
I’ve heard of several companies in a range of industries who are either threatening or being threatened with legal action. Expect companies, agencies and search engines to be watching this very carefully.
The world’s largest flower delivery firm has sued Marks and Spencer at the High Court in London for sponsoring the word ‘Interflora’ as a search engine keyword. The case could be an important test of how UK trade mark laws apply to keyword advertising.
Michigan-based Interflora and its UK trading arm are seeking an unspecified sum of damages and a court injunction to stop M&S bidding on its brand name. Interflora says that the British retailer has taken unfair advantage of Interflora’s brand, in breach of trade mark law.
The lawsuit names Flowers Direct Online as a second defendant. The company, based in Morecambe, England, runs a flower delivery service from flowersdirect.co.uk.
In the lawsuit filed yesterday, M&S and Flowers Direct are accused of bidding for the words ‘Interflora’ and misspellings such as ‘Intaflora’ and ‘Inter-flora’ in Google’s AdWords programme. When users searched for these terms, adverts for M&S and Flowers Direct appeared as ‘sponsored links’.
Interflora’s marketing director, Michael Barringer, said the company’s brand is its most valuable asset.
“The Interflora brand is extremely valuable and we will not tolerate competitors taking advantage of it and infringing our rights,” he said. “Throughout its history, Interflora has been forced to use legal means to prevent infringement of its valuable trade marks.”
“This action represents only the beginning of a broader strategy to defend the Interflora mark against infringers,” said Barringer.
M&S and Flowers Direct appeared to have discontinued their sponsorship of the ‘Interflora’ keywords at the time of writing.