Interflora takes M&S to the European Court in dispute over Google ad links

There are many kinds of ambush marketing but in the dark world of search advertising some rather dastardly arts come into play.

Or so Interflora believes. The flower retailer is taking Marks and Spencer to the European Court of Justice, no less, to complain about M&S's alleged “piggy-backing” on Google searches.

M&S has paid Google to add promotional links through its AdWords system to its own flower business any time a consumer searches for the Interflora name. So the M&S link appears below Interflora's in Google's sponsored links section.

Google won a similar case in March against French luxury goods retailer LVMH. But in that case people were still buying LVMH products, only through third-party retailers instead of direct from LVMH. The Google procedure was not diverting business away from the company, unlike in the Interflora challenge.

Also in this case the retailer is not suing Google for selling the keywords but its competitor for buying those keywords.

The European Court found against LVMH in March but it may have a different view in this case, given the potential loss of business by Interflora. Or it may feel that all is fair in Love, War and Flower Retailing.

Whichever way the Court goes, its decision will be keenly watched by search marketing and digital agencies across Europe.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.