Some of the world's most prestigious brand names are to fight a legal battle in the High Court over Google search terms.
Luxury brands Cartier, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill – all part of the Richemont group – are so keen to protect their online rights that they have filed a claim in the High Court, accusing retailer Aspinal of London of effectively "riding on their coat-tails".
They claim Aspinal is guilty of trademark infringement by buying up Google and Yahoo search terms – or "adwords" – which include their brand names but divert customers to the retailer's website.
Aspinal sells luxury leather goods, but does not stock Cartier, Montblanc or Dunhill products.
"The defendant's selection of adwords that are identical to the claimant's famous and distinctive marks takes unfair advantage of their reputation," the claim states, adding that the intention is to "benefit from their power of attraction, their reputation and their prestige".
In an area of law increasingly defined by the European courts, the latest case has echoes of Interflora's ongoing legal challenge against Marks & Spencer, for alleged "piggybacking" on Google searches, whereby M&S paid the search engine to promote its own flower business any time a user searched for Interflora's name.
It followed a similar failed action against Google by LVMH, the French owner of Louis Vuitton, which claimed Google was unfairly promoting third-party retailers in its sponsored search results.
The latest High Court claim calls for an injunction to "restrain" Aspinal from infringing the trademarks and seeks unspecified damages. Aspinal declined to comment.