Amazon is being sued by luxury bedding company The Comphy for allegedly infringing its trademark by returning links to "inferior third-party sheets" when consumers search for terms like "comph" and "comphy."
Amazon "is making unauthorized and infringing use of plaintiff’s trademarks ... to promote bedding, sheets, pillows and other related merchandise not made or authorized by plaintiff," Comphy alleges in a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court in Illinois.
Comphy, which says it doesn't sell its products on Amazon, alleges that the online retail giant's search engine both tricks consumers and drives sales to competitors, including the similar-sounding "Comfy."
"When 'comphy' is searched on defendant’s website amazon.com, the algorithm populates a page of search results for inferior and unauthorized third-party sheets," Comphy alleges. "The search results page does not indicate that Comphy-brand sheets are unavailable on amazon.com."
The company adds that customers have complained to it about "poor quality sheets" they purchased on Amazon.
Comphy also alleges that Amazon uses "Comphy" to trigger paid ads on Google and Bing. The complaint includes a screenshot of the Google search results for the phrase "comphy sheets." The top text ad on that page linked to an Amazon site, and carried headline "Comfy Sheets Queen -- Amazon | Free 2-Day Shipping w/ Prime."
Comphy is seeking monetary damages and injunction banning Amazon from selling any goods with a "confusingly similar" name. Comphy is also seeking an order prohibiting Amazon from returning results for competitors in response to searches on its own site for "comphy," and from using the name "comphy" to trigger paid search ads on Google, Bing and other search engines.
This isn't the first time Amazon has been sued over its search engine. The luxury watch company Multi-Time Machine, which sells $2,000 watches, also alleged that its trademark was violated when Amazon displays watches by other manufacturers in response to searches for "Multi-Time Machine."
A federal appellate court rejected that argument in 2015, ruling that Amazon's search results pages don't confuse consumers.