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‘Comparative advertising’ was close to the line but okay

November 19, 2015

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Amazon sued for directing people to competing products

October 29, 2015

 

A company called Multi Time Machine makes high-end military-style watches. It refuses to sell them on Amazon. If you search for the company's watches on Amazon, you'll get a long list of competing watches. 

 

Is this illegal?

 

Possibly, according to a federal appeals court in San Francisco, which allowed a lawsuit against Amazon.

 

If you search for MTM's watches on other sites such as Buy.com or Overstock.com, you'll get a message suggesting that they don't carry them, along with some recommendations for related searches. However, Amazon never explicitly says that it doesn't carry MTM watches.

 

As a result, MTM claims, customers might well believe that the watches displayed are MTM products, or are manufactured by a related company - and thus Amazon is unfairly using MTM's trademark to sell competing goods.

 

The court made a reference to a famous Saturday Night Live skit in which customers repeatedly asked for Coke at a restaurant, and John Belushi replied, "No Coke, Pepsi." This was okay, the court said, because Belushi clarified that there was no Coke - but Amazon never clarified that there was "No MTM."

 

​Image courtesy of El Taller del Bit

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