Internet Search Confusion Not Enough for Trade Mark Infringement

Argos is a well-known retailer in the UK and owns its trade name. However, the web domain is owned by a US company which specialises in computer-aided design and that company uses 'Argos' on its website as well as in its domain name.

Argos took exception to this, especially given that Google's 'AdSense' program was actually placing its ads on the US company's web page.

Argos argued that the US company unlawfully infringed its trade mark and was guilty of 'passing off' (holding itself out to be Argos and thus trading on Argos' goodwill).

The claims failed on various grounds, but the case emphasises the points that care needs to be taken to secure relevant Internet domain names and that thought should be given to the likely outcomes of using different forms of web-based marketing before a specific campaign is put in place.