Finance company Moola has failed in its bid to stop a competitor from buying the term “Moola” in Google Adwords.
Moola sought an interim injunction in High Court in Auckland against Wallet Wizard over the use of the word, claiming it breached its trademark.
However, Australian finance company Wallet Wizard argued that the use of “Moola” in a search algorithm could not be viewed as a breach of trademark as it was invisible to the average consumer.
Wallet Wizard also filed a counter-claim, questioning whether a term like “Moola” could be trademarked.
In an interim judgement released this month, Judge Thomas Gault said he erred on the side of convenience and overall justice in deciding against the interim injunction.
At the heart of the case was the question of whether purchased search terms can be subject to trademark rules.
Google Adwords, recently rebranded as Google Ads, allows companies to bid on keywords or phrases to influence when and where their advertisement is displayed.
The ads appear at the top of the page and are accompanied by a little green mark so searchers know they are advertisements.
Since September 2015, Wallet Wizard has bought “Moola” as a Google Adword on the google.co.nz search engine.
This meant when someone searched for Moola, an advertisement for Wallet Wizard displayed close to the top of the page.
However, in legal proceedings filed in late last year Moola argued Wallet Wizard was infringing on its registered trademark.
It also accused Wallet Wizard of attempting to pass itself off as connected to the local firm, in breach of the Fair Trading Act.
Despite raising concerns over the purchase of its name by a competitor, Moola admitted to the court it had bid on the term “Wallet Wizard” multiple times since 2016.
While both companies agreed on how the search related advertisements worked, they differed in how much consumers understood the nature of the ads and connected them to the specific brands.
The judge said that would decided at later trial.
In 2014, the High Court in Auckland ruled Nakedbus had deliberately infringed InterCity’s trade mark “InterCity” by using the words “inter” and “city” as Adwords search terms.
NakedBus founder Hamish Nuttall listed the court case as one of the reasons behind the transport company’s demise.