Multi Time Machine Argues Amazon's Search Engine Confuses Users

Online retailer Amazon duped consumers into thinking that watches by companies like Luminox and Chase-Durer were actually made by Multi Time Machine, the high-end watch company argues in new legal papers.

Multi Time Machine makes the argument as part of a bid to convince the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the company's 2011 trademark infringement lawsuit against Amazon.

Multi Time Machine, which sells $2,000 watches under names like “MTM Special Ops” and “MTM Military Ops,” wants Amazon to change the way it returns results to people who search for timepieces on the site. The watch company -- which doesn't sell merchandise on Amazon -- argues that Amazon's current search function tricks consumers by failing to clearly label the search results.

This February, U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson in the Central District of California sided with Amazon and dismissed the lawsuit. Pregerson ruled that Multi Time didn't present enough evidence to show that Amazon's practices confused consumers.

Multi Time Machine now argues that Pregerson's decision was wrong. The company says the ruling “diverged from the Ninth Circuit’s long line of precedent holding that when trademarks are used in search engines or otherwise on the internet, search results must be clearly labeled to avoid customer confusion.”

Multi Time Machine argues that Amazon should have explicitly told users that they might not receive ads for the same brands they were seeking. “Amazon’s results page does not label its search results to make clear that the products displayed are not the products searched for,” Multi Time Machine argues to the 9th Circuit.

The company says that Amazon's practice differs from that of other online retailers, like Overstock and “Other online retailers that do not carry MTM Special Ops watches clearly inform their customers who search for such watches that they do not offer them for sale, before suggesting alternative watches to the customer,” the watch company argues.

But Amazon isn't the only company to allow trademarked terms to trigger search ads for rivals' products. Google has faced numerous lawsuits for allowing companies to use their rivals brand names to trigger search ads. To date, no court has ruled that Google's practice automatically infringes trademark.

But Multi Time Machine argues in its legal papers that consumers view Google differently than search engines operated by online retailers. “When a customer searches for a specific product on an online retailer’s Web site, such as the website, there is likely a greater expectation that the results offered for sale will be the product for which the customer searched,” Multi Time Machine contends.

“In contrast, when a customer performs a search on a search engine such as Google, the customer’s expectation is not to be offered specific products, which conform to the search, but rather to be provided with a broad range of information related to the search term entered," MTM notes.
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