On December 10th, 2008 wrote on the subject of Online Marketing,Pay Per Click.

Interflora Suing M&S and Flowers Direct over AdWords.

After reading some interesting posts over at Holistic Search and Brand Republic, one of the largest florist chains worldwide is suing Marks & Spencers and Flowers Direct for using the Interflora brand name to trigger AdWords ads for their competitors.

Google updated their policy on brand name keywords and trademark terms that trigger competitor’s adverts to display back in May. Previously, competitors could not bid on other brand names to display their ads, but since Google updated their policies on brand name keywords and trademarks, competitors in various industries have been using competition brand names to trigger their adverts.
It has been reported keywords include “Interflora”, “Intaflora” and “Inter-flora” which have been used to trigger the display of competitors adverts.

Interflora’s argument is that the actions of Marks & Spencers and Flowers Direct are a breach of trademark law, as marketing director Michael Barringer stated:

“The Interflora brand is extremely valuable and we will not tolerate competitors taking advantage of it and infringing our right.”

However, both M&S and Flowers Direct are abiding by the Google Terms of Service- no mention of the band is made within the advert itself and is now somewhat of a common practice across industries, as a spokeswoman for Marks & Spencers was quoted saying they are “extremely surprised by Interflora’s course of action” adding it was industry-wide practice and not unlawful.

Interestingly, there has been no mention of Interflora or any other company suing Google over the use of trademark terms in AdWords for allowing this to happen.

This is not the first report of companies suing over the use of their trademark terms on Google AdWords either, as Dominic Farnsworth (a partner at Lewis Silkin) commented:

“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”.

This poses an interesting situation for advertisers and search agencies- how long is it before competitors terms cause a lawsuit against your company or client, or how many more examples are needed before Google considers refining their policies? As Google have recently allowed the advertising of gambling and alcohol related sites, it appears they are expanding their policies to get even more from their advertising revenue—could this be Google’s solution to the current economic downturn? Let us know your comments.

2 comments on Interflora Suing M&S and Flowers Direct over AdWords

  1. Sergio says:

    Your post got me thinking, I believe it’s wrong to allow companies to use brand names or trademarks of other companies as AdWords, but what if I’m selling mobile products, and I decide to use Iphone as an AdWords? Or what if I’m not actually selling the products but my site just reviews products and I want to attract people to my site using ad words for the specific product should I be excepting any law suits anytime soon?

  2. Bups says:

    Having used PPC myself for many years and also finding that people are entering into our space, I think that its a great idea especially in the current recession. The increase in competition will get prices down and help people make more price conscience decisions.

Leave a comment