A major trademark confrontation is brewing for Amazon.com Inc over how it displays search results that a watchmaker alleges causes confusion in the marketplace.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court Monday, in a 2-1 vote, that watchmaker Multi Time Machine Inc. is entitled to a trial on its trademark claims.
Amazon does not sell the military style model, MTM Special Ops, watch on its web site, but when consumer search for it Amazon provides watch results for similar watches but doesn’t say the watches are not MTM.
MTM sued in Los Angeles federal court claiming trademark violations but the case was dismissed. The appeals court reversed and reinstated MTM’s claim saying a jury should decide if the searches might create a likelihood of confusion among shoppers.
“We are by no means certain that MTM will be able to prove likelihood of confusion under an initial interest confusion theory, but we are confident the matter can be determined only by resolving genuine issues of material fact,” wrote Judge Carlos Bea for the majority. Joining him was Judge Gordon Quist, a visiting judge from Michigan’s Western District.
In dissent, Judge Barry Silverman said that although Amazon does not sell MTM Special Ops watch, when a shopper enters the name, the search produces a list, with photographs, of similar brands, identified by brand name.
“Because Amazon’s search results page clearly labels the name and manufacturer of each product offered for sale and even includes photographs of the items, no reasonably prudent consumer accustomed to shopping online would likely be confused as to the source of the products,” he said.
Case: Multi Time Machine Inc v. Amazon.com Inc., No. 13-55575