Interflora vs. Marks & Spencer court action: UPDATE

by Charlotte.Barnes on March 24, 2011

On Thursday, 24 March, the Advocate General handed down his Opinion on the question put to the Court of Justice of the European Union as to whether Marks & Spencer (“M&S”) should be allowed to use the “Interflora” trade mark as an internet search engine keyword to advertise M&S flowers.

Interflora asked the European Court to answer the question:
Where a trade mark owner such as Interflora has invested considerably in its trade mark, and consumers rely on that trade mark to guide their purchasing behaviour, should a competitor such as Marks & Spencer be entitled to trade off and make money from using Interflora’s trade marks at the expense of Interflora?

Interflora is very encouraged by the Advocate General’s findings which, if followed by the Court of Justice of European Union, will strengthen consumer protection. Such a ruling will enable brand holders across Europe to deliver quality service and ensure that trade marks guarantee the origin of the goods bought by consumers online.

However, Interflora acknowledges that this is only an opinion and eagerly awaits the final judgment of the Court of Justice on the questions put to it.

Michael Barringer, Interflora’s marketing director said that “together with our network of 1800 independent florists, we have spent a lot of time and money over the last 80 years building the reputation of the Interflora brand. We are known as “the flower experts” and our brand stands for quality and service. Our customers trust us to deliver flowers at the most important times of their lives. We are very proud of the Interflora brand and want to protect it for our customers, florists and the future.”


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Charlotte Barnes

Post category: Industry News, Interflora News, News  

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rob McGonigle 10 May 2011 at 1:36 pm

Interflora is right to be very encouraged by the Advocate General’s ruling. This makes the real distinction that whilst it is acceptable to bid on your competitor’s Brands it is not acceptable to create ads that could leave the visitor with the impression they were going to that brand’s website or ‘passing off’.
My clients have bid on brands of competitors that were going out of business.
Here the failed business’s customers could quickly try to plug the gap in their supply chains.

In another market entirely my client needed to address the effects of the Interflora and M&S ruling. Here legal advice insisted that their brand must be in the Ad headline and at the start. Split-testing of these Ads soon persuaded them to stop bidding on a competitor’s brand. Exactly the remedy that Interflora was looking for in going to court.

Unfortunately when I searched for this Blog I spotted an Ad for ‘M&S Flowers Online’. Their very short corporate name, M&S combined with a strong Keyword, flowers meets the branding requirement at the cost of only 4 characters. They can also afford to add ‘from M&S’ in the first line to have their brand twice in them top-position double-length headlines.

I have developed tactics in another market that has similar seasonal peaks to the Interflora business that was able to generate very high CTRs and won inexpensive sales. All of my clients are strongly advised to bid on their own brands. Without this competitors can win visitors cheaply who actually were looking for them. Their Quality scores should be 10/10, with high CTRs, so this often only costs pennies.

M&S could raise their Adwords game when bidding on your brand but more importantly so can Interflora.
In the hands of the brand owner the effect of these tactics can be 5 to 10 times as effective.

{ 12 trackbacks }

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