Argos UK have been told by the Court of Appeal that revenue generated by Google Ads on the website of Argos Systems Inc. does not take unfair advantage of the Argos UK trade mark.
Argos Systems Inc. is a US company selling specialist construction software sold mainly in the Americas and is the owner of the domain name www.argos.com. Argos Systems has traded since 1992 and has a reputation as an established provider of bespoke construction software. Argos UK, being the UK high street catalogue giant, brought a claim against Argos Systems alleging that Argos Systems took unfair advantage of the Argos UK trade mark. Argos UK took issue with the domain name owned by Argos Systems and argued that it took unfair advantage of the domain owned by Argos UK: www.argos.co.uk.
Argos UK based its claim on the idea that Argos Systems benefits from the trade mark and the reputation that the Argos UK has developed over the years, by generating income through Google Ads. Google Ads pays a website host to place advertisements on its site, generating income based on web traffic and visitor engagement with the advertisements. Argos UK’s stance was that consumers were visiting the Argos Systems website by mistake, actually looking for Argos UK. One mouse click onto the website is enough to boost the site’s traffic and increase the revenue generated by Argos Systems from Google Ads. The revenue obtained by Argos Systems was around $30,000 USD.
The Court of Appeal held that there was no unfair advantage taken of the Argos UK trade mark. Primarily this was because the Argos Systems website made no reference to the Argos UK website or trade mark and, upon visiting the Argos Systems website, it would be obvious to a consumer that they are in the wrong place.
A domain name of a business’ website is an important piece of intellectual property that will allow consumers to access its website. It will also contribute to the value of a business’ goodwill and often be a primary entry point of trade. It is therefore crucial for businesses trading online that a domain name is protected along with the content and trade marks that appear on the website. Disruption to online trading or dilution of any marks online could lead to loss of customers, revenue and goodwill.
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