A ruling in a dispute between Interflora and Marks & Spencer by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) could now mean that the practice of using competitor’s trademarks as search engine keywords could breach trademark law.
The ECJ ruled that companies buying trademarked keywords to be used on search engines to advertise rival services could be in breach of European Law. In relation to the case brought against Marks and Spencer by Interflora, Marks and Spencer were found to be using the word ‘Interflora' as a Google AdWord, which meant that anyone searching for Interflora on Google were served with ads for the Marks and Spencer flower delivery service.
This decision by the ECJ could now mean that companies have the right to expect their trademark to be protected from being used by their competitors. Suggesting that companies buying their rivals trademarked keywords on AdWords will now be in breach of European law.
The ECJ stated: “(European law) must be interpreted as meaning that the proprietor of a trademark with a reputation is entitled to prevent a competitor from advertising on the basis of a keyword corresponding to that trademark. Advertising on the basis of such a keyword is detrimental to the distinctive character of a trademark with a reputation (dilution) if, for example, it contributes to turning that trademark into a generic term.”
Although the statement from ECJ is not the final ruling on the subject, it is likely to influence the decision at the High Court between Interflora and Marks and Spencer as well as any other future cases.
This ruling could be great news for many businesses, however could provide problems across the industry, with companies looking for new ways to increase advertising across the web. It now means that many will be cautious with the keywords they choose to use for advertising.