It looks like there is a trademark lawsuit that was brought against Amazon.com that is heading back to the courts after the plaintiff won an appeal today in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to a report by Geekwire, the suit concerns the way Amazon is showing search results for products that it isn’t carrying. Today, the 2-1 appellate court decision (PDF) ruled that “a jury could find that Amazon had created a likelihood of confusion.” This was enough to send the case back for trial.
Multi Time Machine (MTM), a maker of military-style watches that doesn’t sell any products through Amazon.com are the ones bringing the trademark infringement suit. Amazon is being accused by MTM of violating its trademark and creating “initial interest confusion” by showing military-style watches made by competitors on MTM-related searches. Some of the searches include the tradmaarked phrase “MTM Special Ops.”
A previous ruling was reversed by the appellate court in Amazon’s favor, taking specific exception with the way the search result above are presented:
If[a consumer] were to enter “MTM Special Ops” as her search request on the Amazon website, Amazon would respond with its page showing MTM Special Ops (1) in the search field (2) “MTM Specials Ops” again — in quotation marks — immediately below the search field and (3) yet again in the phrase “Related Searches: MTM special ops watch,” all before stating “Showing 10 Results.” What the website’s response will not state is that Amazon does not carry MTM products. Rather, below the search field, and below the second and third mentions of “MTM Special Ops” noted above, the site will display aesthetically similar, multi-function watches manufactured by MTM’s competitors. The shopper will see that Luminox and Chase-Durer watches are offered for sale, in response to her MTM query.
As an interesting and yet important point, it seems that Amazon never tells the shopper that it doesn’t carry the searched-for products. But before we side with Amazon after this point, we need to keep i miind that the appellate court’s decision today points out that other major e-commerce sites, which includes Overstock.com and Buy.com “clearly announce” that none of their search results match the “MTM Special Ops” query before showing products from competitors.