Desk Toymaker Sues Amazon Over Search Ads

Amazon-Buckyballs

Amazon has been sued by the manufacturer of the desk toy Buckyballs for allegedly infringing its trademark by using its name to trigger ads for rivals' desk toys.

Amazon's "use of 'Buckyballs' in connection with competing products is likely to cause confusion by the public about the source, sponsorship or affiliation of the products listed and sold by defendant," manufacturer Maxfield and Oberton Holdings alleges in a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.

The company alleges that Amazon in early May purchased a search ad on Google that carried the text "Buckyballs at Amazon.com," and it took users to an Amazon page that said Buckyballs, but that actually sold competing products like "Magnet Balls."

Maxfield says it sued after Amazon didn't respond to a request to stop using the brand name Buckyballs to trigger ads for competitors. The company is now seeking a court order against Amazon and monetary damages.

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Whether Maxfield can prevail likely will depend on whether it can show consumers were confused by the ads.

Two years ago, a federal judge in Boston refused to dismiss a similar lawsuit by diamond wholesaler Hearts on Fire against retail site Blue Nile. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner found that Blue Nile potentially confused consumers when it arranged for the phrase "Hearts on Fire" to trigger search ads.

While Blue Nile sells diamond jewelry, the site is not an authorized seller of Hearts on Fire diamonds. Court records indicate that case was settled last year without a trial.

Amazon has not yet responded to Online Media Daily's request for comment.

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