InterCity Group Limited Wins Landmark Google AdWords Case
InterCity Group Limited Wins Landmark Google AdWords Case Against Nakedbus
Auckland, New Zealand: 17 February 2014: The High Court in Auckland has ruled that Nakedbus deliberately infringed InterCity Group Limited’s trade mark ‘INTERCITY’, engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct that confused consumers, and illegitimately attempted to pass its business off as InterCity’s.
Nakedbus ran advertisements on Google which would respond to searches for InterCity Group’s trade mark, INTERCITY, and which promoted Nakedbus buses as “inter city” in both the advertisements and on the corresponding website. The Court has confirmed that this was part of a misleading strategy to “hook” InterCity customers into travelling to the Nakedbus website, using InterCity’s trade mark to confuse them into thinking that Nakedbus was some sort of affiliate.
“We feel vindicated by the ruling and are happy with the outcome,” said Nick Hurdle, Acting Chief Executive of InterCity Group Ltd.
“InterCity welcomes competition – it’s healthy and good for our customers – however we believe in a fair fight. This was a cynical, calculated and deliberate attempt by a competitor to leverage our trade mark and mislead customers. Indeed it was described by the judge as an attempt to exploit the wide recognition of our trade mark “InterCity”.”
Nakedbus argued that the words “inter” and “city” were just descriptors for domestic bus services. This argument was emphatically rejected by the Court. It recognised that ‘InterCity’ is a distinctive and well known New Zealand brand which is entitled to the usual statutory protections.
As part of the ruling, Justice Raynor Asher raised serious concerns over the reliability of evidence provided by Hamish Nuttall, CEO of Nakedbus, and rejected his claim that this was just honest use of a descriptive word. The Court was especially concerned at Mr Nuttall’s inflated and inaccurate claims about the potential losses Nakedbus would incur if an earlier application for an interim injunction had been granted. Justice Asher stated, “Such a gross error made in an affidavit on such an important issue indicated at the very least a careless attitude to factual assertions.”
Hurdle said, “We are proud of InterCity’s brand and reputation, which we have worked long and hard to build, and will do whatever is required to protect it. We are pleased that consumers are no longer at risk of booking alternative services by mistake, thinking they are with InterCity”.