Passport Health’s Suit Over Search Engine Ads Fails at 4th Cir.

Written August 21, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on August 13, 2020, held that Avance Health System Inc. could not be liable for infringing Passport Health LLC’s trademark after it purchased the keyword “passport health” on search engines to generate Avance ads beside specific search results. Passport Health LLC v. Avance Health Sys. Inc., 4th Cir., No. 19-1061, unpublished 8/13/20.

Avance Health System Inc. provides accounting, records management, and advertising support for a healthcare company. Passport sued when it discovered Avance’s Bing ads for “passport health”.

A North Carolina federal court ruled for Avance on Passport’s trademark claims, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed, finding the Avance ads didn’t create a likelihood of customer confusion. “Any confusion from Avance’s use of Passport’s marks in its advertisement is dispelled when consumers reach the website,” the appeals court said, noting Avance’s website doesn’t mention Passport Health or advertise services similar to Passport’s travel-related healthcare business.