Canadian online investment management platform Wealthsimple has considered suing its UK rival Moneyfarm over a Google ad where it calls itself "the UK's Wealthsimple".
At the time of writing the full Google sponsored link reads: "Try the UK's Wealthsimple - Invest with Moneyfarm" and it has clearly hit a nerve at the Toronto-based rival.
When asked about the advertisement during an interview with Techworld last week, European CEO at Wealthsimple Toby Triebel said: "They are technically not allowed to do that. We could do something to rectify this, but we have chosen not to so far, but it's not what you should be doing."
In terms of potential routes of action, Triebel said the company could "easily go to Google and have it removed, or go further and sue them".
It's worth noting that fellow UK rival Nutmeg also refers to itself as "the UK's alternative to Wealthsimple" on Google.
Wealthsimple is still in beta here in the UK ahead of a planned launch in September.
Moneyfarm has confirmed with Techworld that it will be closing down this campaign at the end of August, ahead of Wealthsimple's UK launch.
A spokesperson for the company said that this advertising approach is pretty common in the nascent online investment management space, and added that Moneyfarm also advertises against the name of US rival Wealthfront.
Jeremy Harris, IP and technology disputes partner at law firm Kemp Little, explained to Techworld that Moneyfarm's advert would most likely be liable of a trademark infringement, if it wasn't to be removed before Wealthsimple enters the UK market.
"If Wealthsimple had a registered trademark for the UK or the EU, then an advert like that could well infringe that trademark," he explained. "Using an identical mark in the context of advertising for highly similar services would usually amount to trademark infringement."
It would appear that Wealthsimple successfully registered and published its trademark with the EU intellectual property office in February this year.
All three companies offer a 'hybrid' approach to investing clients money through an online portal, meaning none are technically 'robo advisors'. This means that human analysts are in charge of constructing the various portfolios, which are then assigned by algorithms depending on how each provider defines its client's risk appetite.
All three companies focus investment in exchange traded funds (ETFs). These are "a marketable security that tracks an index, a commodity, bonds, or a basket of assets like an index fund," according to Investopedia.
They all charge lower fees than a traditional financial adviser, with Wealthsimple charging a flat annual rate of between 0.5-0.7 percent depending on portfolio size and before fund costs, Nutmeg between 0.35 percent and 0.75 percent, and Moneyfarm between 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent.
Triebel did say that he views the UK market for online investment platforms as healthy. "We are at the very beginning of the online wealth management market," he said. "So In many ways competition is great because it is about educating the market what products like ours can do for you."