Defeat for Argos in the Court of Appeal
Since July 2015 Argos (the catalogue retailer) has been embroiled in a trademark and domain dispute with Argos Systems (“Systems”), a US software company.
Argos accused Systems of infringing its trademarks by using Google AdWords to promote its domain www.argos.com. The argument was quite a complex one. Systems only operates in North and South America, and Argos only operates in the UK and usesthe domain www.argos.co.uk.
Argos’s argument is that because Systems used (it no longer does) Google AdWords which then make it visible to UK searches for “argos”, it is “targeting” customers in the UK and therefore infringing Argos’s trademark for the word “Argos”.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeal sided (like the first instance court) with Systems, and held that the use of Google AdWords is a common and commercially unobjectionable practice, and that Systems did not intentionally target UK customers. It further held that while it is possible that Systems benefited from customers mistakenly on its website, the same was true for Argos. It also said that there was no identifiable damage done to Argos.
Argos were required to pay Systems’ costs of the first instance hearing, and it is now likely they will have to pay the costs of the appeal also.
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