If you head over to Amazon and search for MTM watches, you’ll find plenty of results … for Casio watches, Luminox watches, and Suunto watches. Amazon doesn’t sell MTM watches, yet it returns over 50 results for that search.
According to MTM (Multi Time Machine Inc.) and now an appeals court, this could constitute a trademark violation.
MTM, makers of military style watches, sued Amazon over their “misleading” search results and a federal judge ruled against them. Now, a US Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned that decision and says that the lawsuit should be allowed to proceed.
MTM Special Ops are a military style model of watches which are not sold on Amazon’s web site, according to the court ruling. If an Amazon shopper searches for it, however, Amazon the site will not say it does not carry MTM products.
Instead, Amazon displays MTM Special Ops in the search field and immediately below the search field, along with similar watches manufactured by MTM’s competitors for sale.
MTM alleged this could cause customers to buy from one of those competitors, rather than encouraging the shopper to look for MTM watches elsewhere.
The court agreed in a 2-1 decision. The dissenter who side with Amazon said that “no reasonably prudent consumer accustomed to shopping online would likely be confused as to the source of the products.”
Indeed, Amazon clearly labels the maker of all products listed. But there’s no distinct indication that Amazon does not carry MTM products. In the watchmaker’s eyes, its brand value is being used to sell its competitor’s products.
Amazon has faced this claim before. In the UK, cosmetics company Lush made the same argument and won. Now, when you search for “Lush” on Amazon, the company displays a big notice at the top that reads “We don’t sell Lush cosmetics.”