Edible Arrangements Sues Google for $209M over Rival Ads

When people search on Google for Edible Arrangements and ads for 1-800-Flowers.com and Shari's Berries pop up on the screen, the fruit bouquet franchisor is not buying it.

 Edible Arrangements asserts that its brand is being damaged by the confusion Google is causing to its prospective customers, and it has now sued Google for an initial amount of $209 million to recoup those damages.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the district of Connecticut on February 5, 2018, alleging trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of the Lanham Act. The complaint also lists common law unfair competition and violation of Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Edible Arrangements asserts that Google's repeated and intentional placement of advertisements for its competitors in prominent locations throughout search results for "Edible Arrangements," and in conspicuous proximity to a banner stating "shop for Edible Arrangements on Google. . ., is likely to cause confusion as to whether the franchise company's products and services are affiliated with, originate from, and/or are endorsed by these competitors.

The suit states that Edible Arrangements' franchisees share in the commitment to consistently deliver high-quality, beautifully-designed products to consumers that are instantly recognizable as an Edible Arrangements product offered under its trademarks and brand. Any consumer misperception or confusion as to the affiliation of Edible Arrangements or its products with competitors or their products will irreparably damage the company's valuable brand and goodwill, as well as that of its franchisees, who devote significant personal resources to running their shops.

Google's alleged unlawful conduct

The lawsuit explains how Google first launched its now-famous Google AdWords program to monetize its search engine. AdWords permits and encourages merchants and brand owners to buy keywords that will trigger advertisements when Google users search for the keyword term. It states that keyword advertising has become a major source of revenue for Google and its competitors. What was only 5 percent of third quarter total Internet advertising in 2001, became nearly 47 percent of second quarter total Internet advertising revenue in 2017.

Google then unveiled its Knowledge Graph technology which was intended to help users discover new information quickly and easily by "understanding real-world entities and their relationships to one another, "things, not strings." It also developed Knowledge Panels so that when people search for a business they may see information about that business in a box that appears to the right of their search results, the complaint states. The purpose of Knowledge Panels "is to help customers discover and contact your business."

But Edible Arrangements asserts that despite Google's self-proclaimed goal of helping users find the businesses they are searching for on the Internet, it is doing precisely the opposite. The lawsuit states that since Google has been put on notice, it continues its misconduct and unfair business practices which are extremely detrimental to Edible Arrangements. And Google's unlawful conduct will continue to cause irreparable damage to the Edible brand.

Edible Arrangements if represented by Williams, Walsh & O'Connor in North Haven, Connecticut.

Janet Sparks