A company called Multi Time Machine makes high-end military-style watches. It refuses to sell them on Amazon. If you search for the company’s watches on Amazon, you’ll get a long list of competing watches.
Is this illegal?
Possibly, according to a federal appeals court in San Francisco, which allowed a lawsuit against Amazon.
If you search for MTM’s watches on other sites such as Buy.com or Overstock.com, you’ll get a message suggesting that they don’t carry them, along with some recommendations for related searches. But Amazon never explicitly says that it doesn’t carry MTM watches.
As a result, MTM claims, customers might well believe that the watches displayed are MTM products, or are manufactured by a related company – and thus Amazon is unfairly using MTM’s trademark to sell competing goods.
The court made a reference to a famous Saturday Night Live skit in which customers repeatedly asked for Coke at a restaurant, and John Belushi replied, “No Coke, Pepsi.” This was okay, the court said, because Belushi clarified that there was no Coke – but Amazon never clarified that there was “No MTM.”