Court Rules Path Names Don’t Violate Trademarks

If I had managed to register PETA.Com, I would be clearly be violating PETA’s trademark. But what if I have a path on my web site such as http://www.animalrights.net/peta/? Is that a trademark violation?

Believe it or not somebody actually tried to sue on just that issue. Interactive Products Corp., which manufacturers the Lap Traveler laptop stand sue A2ZSolutions.Com over a URL that that included /laptraveler/. A2ZSolutions had been selling the Lap Traveler, but when IPC told it to stop, it sold a competing product using the same URL. In many Internet searches for “Lap Traveler”, the A2ZSolutions.Com site had a very high listing. So Interactive Products Corp. sued?

A court rejected the lawsuit saying,

[T]o succeed on nay of its trademark claims at issue in this appeal, IPC must show that the presence of its trademark in the post-domain path of a2z’s portable-computer-stan web page is likely to cause confusion among consumers regarding the orign of the goods offered by the parties.

[I]n this case, there is a preliminary question about whether defendandts are using the challenged mark in a way that identifies the source of their goods. If defendants are only using IPC’s trademark in a ‘non-trademark’ way — that is, in a way that does not identify the source of a product — then trademark and false designation of origin laws do not apply.

Stated another way, the issues is whether a consumer is likely to notice ‘laptraveler’ in teh post-domain path and then thinkt hat the Mobile Desk may be produced by the same compay (or a company affiliated with the company) that makes the Lap Traveler.

. . .

Because post-domain paths do not typically signify source, it is unlikely that the presence of another’s trademark in a post-domain path of a URL woudl ever violate trademark law.

In any case, the court went on to note, IPC didn’t bother to actually produce an evidence that such a confusion was likely, and its appeal was rejected.

Source:

Sixth Circuit finds no trademark violation in post-domain paths. Steven Wu, LawMeme, April 12, 2003.

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