The number one French ecommerce website, Vente-privee.com, is about to lose its name. It has been sued by its main competitor, Showroomprivé for using the generic terms vente privée as a company name (Vente privée means flash sales).
On November 28th 2013, the Provincial High Court of Paris agreed with Showroomprivé by saying that the name is not valid because it has been trademarked with the fraudulent intention to monopolise the terms vente privée for its own profit. Vente-privee.com immediately lodged an appeal.
Behind this legal battle between the two French ecommerce giants lies a prolonged conflict around the use of the keywords vente privée on Google Adwords.
Founded in 2001, Vente-privee.com is the pioneer of flash sales (or event sales) – it is an ecommerce model in which a website offers branded products with very high discounts for a short period of time (two to four days) to registered members.
This economic model has been very successful. Vente-privee.com has a turnover of €1.3 billion and is one of the European leaders in internet retailing. Over the years many similar online retailers have followed the same business model. Showroomprivé was founded in 2006 and is now the second biggest fashion ecommerce website behind Vente-privee.com.
As this business model grew, all of the companies began using the keywords vente privée to describe their activity, which Vente-privee.com did not like.
Indeed, if you type vente privée into Google, the very first result is not Vente-privee.com but an ad from its competitor ShowroomPrivé:
In 2009 Vente-privee.com decided to trademark its name (trademarking only vente privée would have been impossible because it is too generic), in order to prevent competitors from using it – using a competitors trade mark in keywords is prohibited by Google Adwords advertising policies: “Google will investigate and may restrict the use of a trademark within ad text.”
Two years ago Vente-privee.com decided to sue Showroomprivé for using the keyword vente privée in its Adwords.
Not happy with that, Showroomprivé decided to respond by counter-suing, which led to Vente-privee.com losing its trademark just a few days ago.
Vente-privee.com lost its trademark but still owns its domain name. Jacques-Antoine Granjon’s company will not however be able to sue other companies using the keywords vente privée to describe their activities, either in Google Adwords or on their website.
Thierry Petit, CEO of Showroomprivé, said that the first thing they will do is to again buy the keywords vente privée. Petit explained to the website Journal du net: “A former court decision told us to stop buying those words on Google but the appeal is still in process. Thanks to the decision of the Provincial High Court of Paris, we will be able to start again”.
The keywords vente privée are very popular in France with 1,220,000 average monthly searches.