According to Multi Time Machine, Inc., when one searched for their MTM Special Ops watches through Amazon.com, the online giant’s results page infringed on the manufacturer’s trademark. A panel agreed, reversing a district court’s summary judgment and holding that a jury could find that a “likelihood of confusion was created under an ‘initial interest confusion.’”
More specifically according to the judgment, if an online shopper entered “MTM Special Ops” in the Amazon search request, the site with “Earth’s Biggest Selection of Products” would respond first with a page displaying the name in the search field, second in quotation marks below the search field and third in the phrase “Related Searches: MTM special ops watch,” followed by “Showing 10 Results” that featured “aesthetically similar, multi-function watches manufactured by MTM’s competitors.” No actual MTM products would be found because Amazon did not carry them. Furthermore, nowhere in either the search results page or the product detail page did Amazon state they did not carry said products.
According to the panel, Amazon caused confusion because of what the search results said and didn’t say, therefore infringing on the watchmaker’s trademark under the Lanham Act.
One judge dissented, stating that the Amazon search results page was “unambiguous,” and Amazon clearly labeled the name and manufacturer of each product and included photographs, so “no reasonably prudent shopper accustomed to shopping online would likely be confused as to the source of the products.”
According to Ars Technica, this case is striking in that it could be an “important outlier in technology law, since it approves a trademark owner bringing suit over search results.”