Online retailer Amazon prevails in trademark dispute

| Oct 28, 2015 | Trademark Law

A appellate court in California ruled on Oct. 21 that Amazon.com did not violate the trademarks Multi Time Machine Inc. by displaying a variety similar products when shoppers on the popular online retailer’s website searched for an MTM watch. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reverses a previous ruling that the court had made, which allowed a lawsuit brought by MTM against Amazon.com to proceed.

MTM filed the lawsuit after discovering that the online retailer provided a list of similarly styled watches when their visitors searched for an MTM military styled watch. Amazon.com does not sell the MTM Special Ops watch, and the Los Angeles-based watchmaker claimed in its lawsuit that an array of similar watches was confusing for shoppers and could lead them to buy products made by competitors while believing that they were purchasing a genuine MTM watch.

The 9th Circuit overturned its July 2015 ruling in a 2-1 opinion. The panel concluded that the way the online retailer displayed search results was unlikely to mislead shoppers as images were displayed alongside descriptions of watches that clearly indicated the names of product manufacturers. MTM filed its lawsuit against Amazon.com in 2011. Representatives from the two companies did not immediately respond to the court’s decision.

This case indicates how aggressive companies can be when protecting their trademarks. While trademarks do not have to be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, attorneys with experience in this area may advise their clients to take this step. Registering a trademark may make infringement, and the subsequent costly litigation, less likely. Attorneys could assist with the registration process by checking to see if the trademark in question is available as well as drafting and submitting the trademark application to the USPTO.

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