Lawsuit claims search company is undercutting Edible’s brand
Edible Arrangements is an almost Hollywood-ready American success story.
Beginning with a $17,000 advance from his parents, Pakistani immigrant Tariq Farid purchased a floral shop in the late 1980s. Soon, he expanded to four shops, leveraging business systemization techniques he learned as a McDonald’s employee. When, later on, he required better software management for his growing business, he founded a computer software company to help.
By the end of the ’90s, Farid had transitioned his floral enterprise into a unique catering business: Edible Arrangements, which cuts fruit into attractive, floral-arrangement-inspired fruit baskets. The business began franchising in 2001, and today it is one of the country’s most successful franchisors.
Understandably, franchisors work hard to protect the value of their commercial marks, which are paramount for expanding a brand while maintaining a core identity. Edible Arrangements’ corporate art, which is used on a wide array of signage, merchandise and in-store identifiers, ties together the more than 1,200 stores in the franchise.
So when it perceived those marks to be threatened – even by a corporate behemoth like Google – it took legal action, filing a lawsuit against the search giant in the District of Connecticut in February 2018.
Google’s placement of competitor information in conspicuous proximity to information regarding Edible Arrangements in search results is at the center of the complaint.
Specifically, the case deals with Google’s “knowledge panel,” a section of the Google search results page that appears in the right-hand column. The panel was introduced by Google to cut to the chase, presenting immediate information about the likely subject of the query. In a search for a well-known business name, for example, the panel will display some basic information – the business’s name, a brief summary of its services or products, contact information, and a website link.
Edible Arrangements claims that Google search results for “edible arrangements” inserted a separate “Shop for …” section above the knowledge panel, providing links to a number of products – both Edible Arrangements-branded products and the products of its competitors. A small “sponsored” tag notwithstanding, the complaint asserts that these results mislead consumers into believing the product listings are connected to the Edible Arrangements brand. As illustrated in separate exhibits, the complaint claims that competitor brands are not treated in the same way.
Because Google’s reach is so gargantuan – the site represents more than three-quarters of the search traffic in the United States – Edible Arrangements claims that Google’s alleged practices are damaging its brand. The company charges Google with confusing customers into buying competitor products and diluting its distinctive business mark.
The suit alleges trademark infringement, false designation of origin, dilution, unfair competition and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act