Google Keywords: First UK Action?

December 6, 2008

Interflora is suing Marks and Spencer for sponsoring the word ‘Interflora’ as a search engine keyword. The story was first reported on Outlaw (the IT and e-commerce new service from Pinsent Masons), which indicates that Interflora are seeking an unspecified sum of damages and an injunction. The allegation is that M&S has taken unfair advantage of Interflora’s brand, in breach of the Trade Marks Act 1994, s. 10(1) and (3). Flowers Direct Online are a second defendant.

According to the particulars of claim, ‘when a user enters the search term INTERFLORA or similar into the Google search engine, it is the intention of that user to look for [Interflora or its associates]’.

Section 10(1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 prohibits making use of a sign which is identical to another’s trade mark, in the course of trade, in relation to goods or services identical to those for which the trade mark is registered. Section 10(3) is breached by making use of a sign which is identical or similar to another’s trade mark, and where the use of that sign without due cause takes unfair advantage of, or is detrimental to, the distinctive character or the reputes of the trade mark.
Interflora’s marketing director, Michael Barringer, said the company’s brand is its most valuable asset.