This is no ordinary lawsuit... this is a Marks & Spencer lawsuit...

8 December 2008

It's always enjoyable to see two big brands rutting like stags, so we'll be interested to learn what becomes of Interflora versus Marks & Spencer. The outcome could change the way online advertising works in the UK, since the flower-powered delivery firm - the biggest in the world - is claiming that M&S sponsored the word "Interflora" (and several obvious spelling mistakes) as search engine keywords in Google's AdWords programme.

While there may not be an issue searching Google for generic terms related to flower delivery, Interflora says M&S has taken unfair advantage of Interflora's brand, in breach of trade mark law. Essentially, when users searched for Interflora, the company claims adverts for M&S (and Flowers Direct) appeared as sponsored links.

Google allows customers signed up with AdWords to sponsor most keywords typed into the search engine. It's a potentially crucial case, because not only does it have obvious repercussions for how companies promote their products through services like Google, but it perhaps raises further questions about the use of search engine optimisation (SEO) to increase the popularity of a website on search engines like Google.

A thorough Googling for Interflora reveals no Mark & Spencer sponsored links, so if they were involved in such activity, somebody's tinkered with their back end since. We did, however, find this nice picture of a kitten:

[out-law]

TOPICS:   Technology   High Street News

9 comments

  • Sam
    No offense but ad words has nothing to with seo!
  • Paul S.
    I think my point was that aside from AdWords, there are ways and means of manipulating SEO; I imagine some clever folk could manipulate a company website to a better page rank through the use of keywords based on their competitor's trade mark.
  • Philip J.
    That IS a nice kitten. This won't have any effect on SEO, but I see why you raise the point.
  • Aidan B.
    This isn't really anything new. You can search for many popular brands and see competitors bidding on them in AdWords, for example I searched for hertz and found a competitor's car rental ad. These days it's a lot more difficult to spam the search engines by targeting popular brand names with SEO. Although it's technically possible to mis-represent another's brand, any attempts are likely to be short-lived due to high bounce-rates, difficulty of attaining link relevance and the chance that you'll get reported. However, the legal grey area surrounding keyword ownership is best left to the advertisers, rather than the search engines. Consequently I expect to see cases like this appearing for some time to come.
  • Matt C.
    Hi Paul (nice kitten). This sort of activity is quite common in the adwords arena - and I'm not entirely sure if I think it is a good or a bad thing. There is an argument to be made that it is close to "passing off" - and another to be made that it is justifiable advertising. Tough call. You're right (as are 'the correctors') - the importance of onsite SEO (and offsite linkbuilding) - particularly so called 'white hat' techniques is highlighted to some degree by this case.
  • Advertising
    It's not clear from the thread IF the word INTERFLORA appeared on M&S actual sponsored link or whether they were just appearing when the word was typed in. If the word actually appeared ie: Interflora - M&S flower delivery then I'd say they were in big trouble, just targeting the phrase and having a standard ad appear for M&S online flower delvery is no big deal, that's called targeted advertising I believe - the very essence of the adwords program. James. Nice kitten........................ heh.
  • Google’s B.
    [...] companies aren’t happy that anybody can bid on the same keywords and sell similar products; we recently reported on the case of M&S allegedly sponsoring the word “Interflora” (and several obvious spelling [...]
  • W.
    I dunno what you guys are chatting bout! but all I need to kno is How does Marks and Spencer promote their product? if anyone kno's da answer cud you e-mail me on [email protected] LOL thank you!
  • Clothing
    Hey there, You have done an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and individually suggest to my friends. I'm sure they will be benefited from this site.

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