A recent European Court ruling could see the commonly utilised practice of a brand using a rival’s trademark as a keyword – in search engine marketing – breach trademark law, according to an article published by Brand Republic.

The dispute, regarding flower retailer, Interflora and Marks & Spencer (M&S), has seen the court rule that using a competitor’s trademark as a keyword could have an adverse impact – in situations where a particular keyword’s use impacts on brand reputation and the company’s ability to retain and entice customers.

Despite this, the ruling also found that the practice could be utilised fairly in cases where the keyword “puts forward an alternative to the goods or services of the proprietor of the trade mark with a reputation – without offering a mere imitation of the goods or services if the proprietor of that trade mark, without causing dilution of the trade mark or detriment to its repute (tarnishment) and without, moreover, adversely affecting the functions of the trade mark.”

M&S’s use of the word ‘Interflora’ in Google AdWords sparked the dispute and prompted Interflora to take legal action – as the term produced results relating to M&S’s own flower delivery service.

Both have been referred back to the High Court of Justice, England, in a bid to resolve the matter.

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