Digital advertisers should take note of Cochrane Steel Products v M-Systems Group. Whilst advertising through Google Adwords, many people bid on keywords that include the trademarks of their competitors. For example, if you sell a drink like Coke, you want people searching in Google for coke to see your ads. Is this lawful? Is it passing off?
A Summary of Cochrane Steel Products v M-Systems Group
The SCA decided that it was not automatically unlawful competition (or passing off) to bid on a keyword in Google Ads that was someone else’s common law trademark. However, the facts of each case need to be considered and the key question is whether the ad causes the public to be confused. Also, the outcome might have been different had it been a registered trademark rather than just a common law trademark.
Do you have a similar problem?
We can help you to:
- stop someone bidding on a keyword that includes your trademarks, or
- defend you for someone claiming that you are unlawfully competing with them or passing yourself off to be someone else.
The full name and reference is Cochrane Steel Products (Pty) Ltd v M-Systems Group (Pty) Ltd (227/2015)  ZASCA 74 (27 May 2016).