Interflora versus M&S echoed by more AdWords clashes

Interflora is just one of several companies taking legal steps to prevent competitors bidding on their trademarks as search terms, according to a branding lawyer.

The florist has filed lawsuits against Marks & Spencer and Flowers Direct Online over their sponsorship of the terms 'Interflora', 'Intaflora' and 'Inter-flora' as Google AdWords.

Several other brand owners are taking action to stop their competitors bidding on their trademarks, although they have not gone as far as starting legal proceedings, according to Dominic Farnsworth, a partner at Lewis Silkin.

"There are a lot of legal letters flying around in the background at the moment and many disputes are being resolved without the need for legal proceedings," he said.

"However, Interflora shows that where matters are not being resolved some brand owners are prepared to escalate matters and it is interesting to note that M&S no longer appear to be bidding."

The disputes have sprung up after Google changed its policy in May to allow companies to bid on their rivals' trademarks.

Farnsworth observes that brand owners have so far not taken legal action to get Google to reverse the change as it is legally easier to warn off competitors.

"When Google relaxed its AdWords policy and started to accept bids on other parties' registered trade marks many brand owners reacted with shock.

"The idea that a competitor might be able to bid on their trade mark to try and win business seemed totally contrary to the purposes for which they had registered that trade mark.

"However, despite much sabre rattling, it does not seem that any trade mark owner has brought proceedings against Google for alleged trade-mark infringement."

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