By Robert Watson
In February of this year, the UK retailer Argos was unsuccessful in an intellectual property (IP) action against Argos Systems (AS) – a software developer based in the United States.
The claim was based on AS’s use of the domain name “www.argos.com”, which Argos argued infringed their trade mark and was an attempt to use the UK company’s customer base to gain traction on advertising banners on the website.
AS was profiting from Argos’ customers mistakenly visiting their website, often then clicking on advertising banners, which were geared towards their search preferences.
The High Court found AS was not infringing Argos’ trade mark or passing off on its IP rights. A key factor in the Court’s decision being that potential Argos customers mistakenly visiting AS’ website did not affect the likelihood of them shopping with Argos (or damage the perception of their trade marks).
This case is a sign of the ever increasing commercial value of customer attention and interaction online and highlights IP enforcement as a key consideration for businesses.
Exploitation through practices, such as cybersquatting, reinforces the need for proper evaluation of how a business protects its online profile.
The practice of cybersquatting involves the registration of domain names early on, often using well-known company or brand names, which have yet to fully develop their online marketing or IP profile.
The domain name is then effectively ransomed to the relevant company once they become concerned about misdirected website traffic or reputational damage from the content on the other website.
Even at an early stage, registering domain names, word marks and trade marks are all effective methods of putting your business in a better position to counter threats to your brand – allowing you to utilise the full benefit of your marketing and reputation.
Protecting the IP associated with your business, brand or products, protects the goodwill built by your business and also provides a commercial opportunity to licence the IP to others in a way that maintains control over how it is used.
If you would like to discuss how you can best protect your IP portfolio, please get in touch with a member of Mackrell Turner Garrett’s IP team.