Interflora v M & S: Another AdWord referral to ECJ

"This is another case about Google AdWords and registered trade marks". This is the opening sentence of the England and Wales High Court's decision on an interim injunction in Interflora, Inc. Interflora British Unit v Marks and Spencer PLC Flowers Direct Online Limited, [2009] EWHC 1095 (Ch). The decision can be retrieved by clicking here.

The claimant, Interflora which operates the largest flower delivery network in the world, had filed a interim injunction to stop Marks and Spencer (M & S) and others from using 'Interflora' as a sponsored Google Adword search term, as well as the misspellings 'Intaflora' and 'Inter-flora'. M & S also operates a flower delivery service via its website which enables orders to be placed online.

The High Court did not grant an interim injunction and, as so many other national courts before, Mr Justice Arnold decided to refer the "Adword" matter to the European Court of Justice.

While the actual questions are still outstanding, (para 104 "I think it is right that the parties should have the opportunity to consider my judgment in L'Oréal v eBay, which is being handed down at the same time as this judgment, before finally committing themselves.") Mr Justice Arnold's reasons for a referral are set out in paragraphs 93 pp:
93 In the particular circumstances of this case, I concluded that the better course was to refer questions to the Court of Justice now, for the following reasons. It is common ground between the parties that guidance from the ECJ will at some point be necessary to enable this court to resolve the dispute. That being so, if I could be reasonably confident that all the necessary guidance from the ECJ would be forthcoming in its judgments on one or more of the existing references, then it might well make sense for to me to do as M & S urge and stay the proceedings until sufficient guidance is available: compare Johns v Solent SD Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 790 and Boehringer Ingelheim KG v Swingward Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 83, [2008] ETMR 36. For the reasons given by counsel for Interflora, however, I consider that there is at least a real possibility that the rulings by the ECJ on the existing references will not clearly resolve all the issues of law which arise in the present case. A further factor which supports this conclusion is the risk that one or more of the existing references may be withdrawn as a result of settlements. I also note that the Bundesgerichtshof considered it appropriate to make a further reference notwithstanding the references which had already been made.

96 Thus the choice comes down to making a reference now or leaving it to the trial judge to make a reference. The advantages of making a reference now are that it will reduce the delay in resolving this dispute and that it may obviate the need for trial altogether or at least reduce the scope of the trial. The main disadvantage of making a reference now is that the facts have not been fully determined. I am satisfied, however, that the factual situation is sufficiently clearly defined to enable the questions of law which arise to be posed and answered.

99 I should add that an additional factor which I have taken into account in reaching this conclusion is that I have decided to refer questions to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling in L'Oréal SA v eBay".

Interflora v M & S: Another AdWord referral to ECJ Interflora v M & S: Another AdWord referral to ECJ Reviewed by Birgit Clark on Friday, May 22, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. Every European Court needs to refer the same question (in one million and one permutations) to the ECJ. Why? Just why! Like a contest of who can come up with the best and most original question.

  2. Everybody is clamouring for a European Patents Court. Why not a European Trade Marks Court as well?

  3. Community trade Mark Courts do exist, see eg SI 1027 of 2006.

  4. To 3rd anonymous - Community Trade Mark Courts do exist, but they are national courts so designated, and therefore are subject to the same possible divergence of opinions as any other national courts.

  5. I am honestly impressed by Judge Arnold's summaries of the other references...

    Does anyone want to guess how long it will take before the High Court issues his questions to the ECJ.

    Any by the way... on the 4th of June (interestingly enough exactly the day Google Adwords will liberalise its trademark complaint-policy for 190 countries) the attorney general is expected to deliver a statement at the ECJ about the French Adwords Cases. So let's see...



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