InterCity Group has won a landmark legal dispute against rival bus company Nakedbus over the latter's use of the trademarked term "intercity" to drive Google advertisements.
Nakedbus ran advertisements on Google AdWords which would respond to searches for the word "intercity" to trigger advertisements for Nakedbus.
AdWords is a paid advertising service offered by Google. The service uses keywords in internet searches to trigger advertisements on the Google results page.
Nakedbus had defended using the words "inter" and "city" as AdWords search terms in Google searches because they were key descriptors of the domestic bus network and the words individually were commonly used.
But the High Court at Auckland has ruled that Nakedbus had deliberately infringed InterCity's trade mark "InterCity" and had attempted to pass itself off as InterCity.
"We feel vindicated by the ruling and are happy with the outcome," InterCity acting chief executive Nick Hurdle said.
"This was a cynical, calculated and deliberate attempt by a competitor to leverage our trademark and mislead customers. Indeed it was described by the judge as an attempt to exploit the wide recognition of our trademark, InterCity."
Intercity complained to Google in December 2012.
Google responded by blocking any advertisements for Nakedbus using "Intercity" as the search term, but lifted the ban in April.
Hamish Nuttall, chief executive of Nakedbus, did not respond to a request for comment.
- Fairfax Media