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Amazon loses trademark appeal over 'targeting' UK shoppers

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By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - Amazon lost an appeal on Wednesday against a ruling that it had infringed UK trademarks by targeting British consumers on its U.S. website, in a potentially significant judgment for other online retailers.

The U.S. tech giant was found in 2022 by London's Court of Appeal to have infringed the trademarks. Amazon appealed last year to the United Kingdom's Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that its U.S. website was "targeting consumers in the UK".

Amazon declined to comment on "ongoing proceedings".

Intellectual property lawyers said the ruling could affect all online retailers, who would now need to check that their platforms do not automatically target British consumers.

Amazon was first sued in London by Lifestyle Equities, the owner of the UK and European trademarks in the "Beverly Hills Polo Club" brand, in 2019. Its trademarks cover a wide variety of goods, including clothing, luggage, watches and perfume.

Lifestyle Equities said Amazon had infringed its trademarks by selling U.S. branded goods to British consumers via its U.S. website, which Amazon denied.

The Supreme Court said in Wednesday's ruling that Amazon's U.S. website automatically contains boxes stating "Deliver to United Kingdom" when it detects a user is based in the UK.

This meant, the court said, that "Amazon did target the UK as a destination for the U.S. branded goods", where the product was marked as available for delivery to the UK.

Lifestyle Equities is entitled to an injunction preventing further infringement and potentially damages, the court ruled.

Jemma Green, an intellectual property (IP) lawyer at Addleshaw Goddard, said online retailers would have to audit their platforms to avoid risking any infringement.

The ruling meant brand owners have "far stronger rights to prevent website operators based outside the UK from targeting UK consumers", Green added.

Dennis Lee, an IP partner at BDB Pitmans, said the ruling could prompt similar lawsuits against other online retailers.

Any website offering shipping to the UK "will now need to be clear that it is not 'targeting' UK shoppers", he said, or if it does be sure that the goods do not infringe UK trademarks.

(This story has been corrected to spell the name as Jemma, not Jenna, in paragraph 10)

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Alexander Smith)