Georgia court upholds Google win in Edible Arrangements keyword ad fight

The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Georgia Supreme Court says Google didn't steal trade name
  • Consumer confusion required to violate rights

(Reuters) - Georgia's highest state court on Tuesday affirmed a win for Google LLC over its sales of keyword advertisements tied to the phrase "Edible Arrangements," rejecting a lawsuit from Edible IP LLC.

Edible did not show that Google's ad sales using the name amounted to theft of its property, the Georgia Supreme Court said. Edible IP owns the trademarks and other intellectual property for online retailer Edible Arrangements, which specializes in delivering fresh fruit in the style of bouquets and other food gifts.

Google's keyword ads appear on its search result pages when users search for specific words. Edible sued Google in 2018, and said its sale of the keyword "Edible Arrangements" to competitors violates its property rights under Georgia law.

Edible sued Google for theft, conversion and racketeering, but specifically said it was not accusing Google of trademark infringement or seeking "any other relief for any consumer confusion."

A Georgia trial court and appeals court both dismissed the claims. The state's Supreme Court affirmed those decisions on Tuesday.

The court said Edible's theft claims could not survive without allegations that Google's use of its name caused market confusion, and that imposing liability without such a finding would subvert trademark law.

"Trademark law recognizes a distinction between the illegitimate misappropriation of a business's goodwill and legitimate comparative advertising and, therefore, permits the use of trade names as long as referencing other brand names does not confuse consumers and is not deceptive," Justice Carla McMillian said.

The court also rejected Edible's conversion and racketeering claims.

Google spokesperson Christa Muldoon said in a statement that the decision "reinforces our longstanding advertising policies, which aim to create a trustworthy and fair experience for users and advertisers alike."

Edible and its attorneys didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Edible IP LLC v. Google LLC, Supreme Court of Georgia, No. S21G0798.

For Edible IP: Jason Carter of Bondurant Mixson & Elmore

For Google: Margret Caruso of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com