Amazon may be forced to stop showing the names of products it doesn't sell in search results

An appeals court gave new life to a lawsuit by a watch company that says Amazon is misleading customers by how it arranges search results on its site.

Multi Time Machine, a watchmaker that does not sell its watches on Amazon, says that Amazon displays similar watches from competitors when a customer searches for its MTM Special Ops watches, instead of making clear that the site does not sell watches from MTM.

This, MTM says, could lead consumers to buy watches from their competitors on Amazon rather than look for the Special Ops watches elsewhere.

MTM attorney Eric Levinrad told Reuters that other sites would typically have some kind of message indicating they do not sell a particular item.

MTM first sued Amazon on charges of trademark infringement in 2011. A lower court previously ruled in favour of Amazon, but MTM appealed.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed the lower court’s decision Monday.

“MTM asserts that Amazon’s use of MTM’s trademarked name is likely to confuse buyers, who may ultimately buy a competitor’s goods. The district court found Amazon’s use of MTM’s trademark created no likelihood of confusion as a matter of law. But we think a jury could find that Amazon has created a likelihood of confusion,” the court wrote in its opinion, which allows MTM’s suit to continue. “We therefore reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favour of Amazon.”

If MTM eventually wins the suit, Amazon could be forced to remove its name from search results, and do the same thing for other searches on products it does not sell.

Amazon did not immediately return a request for comment.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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