|Notes: Domain Names and Trademarks|
Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act states:
(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person's goods, services, or commercial activities, shall be liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.
The Court finds that Virtual Works infringed the trademark of Volkswagen. Under Fourth Circuit law, "a domain name is more than a mere internet address. It also identifies the internet site to those who reach it, much like ... a company's name widentifies a specific company." Cardservice International, Inc. v. McGee, 950 F.Supp. 737, 743 (E.D.Va.1997), aff'd, 129 F.3d 1258 (4th Cir.1997). The holder of a domain name should give up that domain name when it is "an intuitive domain name" that belongs to another. See Washington Speakers Bureau v. Leading Authorities, 33 F.Supp.2d 488, 499 (E.D.Va.1999). "VW" is the "intuitive domain name" of Volkswagen.
Trademark law seeks to prevent one seller from using a "mark" identical or similar to that used by another seller in a way that confuses the public about the actual source of the goods or services in question. Star Fin. Services, Inc. v. Aastar Mortgage Corp., 89 F.3d 5, 9 (1st Cir.1996). Such confusion may prevent the buyer from obtaining the goods he seeks or may endanger the reputation of the first user of the mark by association with the subsequent user. DeCosta v. Viacom Int'l, Inc., 981 F.2d 602, 605 (1st Cir.1992), cert. denied, 509 U.S. 923, 113 S.Ct. 3039, 125 L.Ed.2d 725 (1993).
- Hasbro, Inc., v.
Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 121 (DMA Sept.
Types of Marks
The four judicially-developed categories of trademarks, listed in ascending order of their strength are (1) generic, (2) descriptive, (3) suggestive, and (4) arbitrary or fanciful. See Arrow Fastener Co. v. Stanley Works, 59 F.3d 384, 391 (2d Cir.1995); Abercrombie & Fitch Co. v. Hunting World, Inc., 537 F.2d 4, 9 (2d Cir.1976). A generic mark can never be protected, but a descriptive mark can obtain registration if it has acquired "secondary meaning." See Lane Capital, 192 F.3d at 344. "Fanciful, arbitrary and suggestive marks are deemed inherently distinctive. Their intrinsic nature serves to identify a particular source of a product, so they will be automatically protected" without a showing of secondary meaning. Id. A term is descriptive if it "tells something about a product, its qualities, ingredients or characteristics." Estee Lauder Inc., 108 F.3d at 1509. In contrast, a term is suggestive if it "requires imagination, thought, and perception to reach a conclusion as to the nature of the goods" or services it represents. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. McNeil-P.P.C., Inc., 973 F.2d 1033, 1039 (2d Cir.1992).
-- Bihari v. Gross, No. OO Civ. 1664
7 (SDNY Sept 25, 2000) .
First, PETA owns the PETA Mark and Defendant admits the PETA Mark's validity and incontestability. The PETA Mark is thus presumed to be distinctive as a matter of law. Jews for Jesus v. Brodsky, 993 F.Supp. 282, 295 (D.N.J.1998), aff'd 159 F.3d 1351 (3rd Cir.1998); Sporty's Farm, L.L.C. v. Sportman's Market, Inc., 202 F.3d 489, 497(2nd Cir.).
-- People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, Inc., v. Doughney, No. CIV.A. 99-1336-A., 2000 WL 943353, 3 (E.D.Va. June 12, 2000)
11.Service marks are essentially trademarks used in the sale of services, instead of goods. Both service marks and trademarks are governed by identical standards. See, e.g., Lane Capital Management v. Lane Capital Management, 192 F.3d 337, 344 n. 2 (2d Cir.1999). A service mark includes words used "to identify and distinguish the services of one person, including a unique service, from the services of others and to indicate the source of the services, even if that source is unknown." 15 U.S.C. § 1127.
-- Bihari v. Gross, No. OO Civ. 1664 (SAS), 7 (SDNY
25, 2000) .
Generally, personal names used as trademarks are regarded as descriptive terms, protected only if they have acquired distinctive and secondary meaning. See Lane Capital, 192 F.3d at 345; Abraham Zion Corp. v. Lebow, 761 F.2d 93, 104 (2d Cir.1985). However, "Bihari Interiors" is a suggestive rather than a descriptive mark because it suggests Bihari's services. The mark requires an imaginative leap to correctly identify Bihari's services. The word "interiors" does not immediately identify interior design services. It could as easily describe a company producing home furnishings, seat covers for automobiles12 or services such as carpet cleaning or wall painting. As a suggestive mark, "Bihari Interiors" is inherently distinctive and entitled to protection.
-- Bihari v. Gross, No. OO Civ. 1664
7 (SDNY Sept 25, 2000) .
Plaintiff's "GREENPOINT" mark is "descriptive of
the geographic origin of a product," here Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and
not receive trademark protection absent proof of secondary meaning."
Group, Inc. v. Arrow Trading Co., Inc., 30 F.3d 348, 348 (2d Cir.1994);
(Humphrey Decl). The "term has acquired a secondary meaning in
particular market [if] the consuming public primarily associates the
with a particular source." Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. McNeil-P.P.C.,
973 F.2d 1033, 1040 (2d Cir.1992).
Six factors have been identified to help establish secondary meaning. They are (a) advertising expenditures1; (b) consumer studies linking the mark to a source; (c) unsolicited media coverage of the product; (d) sales success; (e) attempts to plagiarize the mark; and (f) the length and exclusivity of the mark's use. See Centaur Communications, Ltd.v. A/S/M/ Communications, 830 F.2d 1217, 1222. While each factor does not have to be proved and no single factor is determinative (id.), Plaintiff must satisfy a "heavy" burden because "[p]roof of secondary meaning entails vigorous evidentiary requirements." 20th Century Wear Inc., v. Sanmark -Stardust Inc., 747 F.2d 81, 90 (2d Cir.1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1052 (1985) (quoting Ralston Purina Co. v. Thomas J. Lipton, Inc., 341 F.Supp. 129, 134 (S.D.N.Y.1972)).
Elements of Causes of Action
To prevail on a claim for infringement under the Lanham Act, a plaintiff must show that (1) it has a distinctive mark subject to protection; and (2) the defendant's mark results in a likelihood of confusion. Estee Lauder Inc. v. The Gap, Inc., 108 F.3d 1503, 1508 (2d Cir.1997).
To prevail on its trademark infringement action, plaintiff must demonstrate (1) ownership of an enforceable right in a trademark and (2) that defendants' use of the mark creates a likelihood of consumer confusion. See Levi Strauss & Co. v. Blue Bell, Inc., 778 F.2d 1352, 1354 (9th Cir.1985) (en banc). In determining whether or not there is a likelihood of confusion, the Court is to weigh the following factors: (1) the strength of the mark; (2) proximity of the goods; (3) similarityof the marks; (4) evidence of actual confusion; (5) marketing channels used; (6) type of goods and the degree of care likely to be exercised by the purchaser; (7) defendant's intent in selecting the mark; and (8) likelihood of expansion of the product lines. See AMF Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats, 599 F.2d 341 (9th Cir.1979).
The plain language of the
Lanham Act makes apparent that § 43(a) is only applicable to
uses of another's mark. First, the statute only applies to actions
by individuals "in connection with any goods or services." 15 U.S.C.
1125(a)(1); see also Int'l Ass'n of Machinists and Aerospace Workers,
v. Winship Green Nursing Ctr., 914 F.Supp. 651, 654, n. 2 (D.Me.) (the
statutory language "in connection with goods or services" serves the
of keeping most applications of the Lanham Act "within the realm of
speech" ' so that "conflicts with the First Amendment are minimized"),
aff'd, 103 F.3d 196 (1st Cir.1996). Second, § 43(a) is limited to
uses likely to cause confusion "as to the origin, sponsorship, or
of [the defendant's] goods, services, or commercial activities ...." 15
U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A) (emphasis added). Third, § 43(a) is
by 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(4)(B), which states that "[n]oncommercial
of a mark" is not actionable under the Lanham Act. See 15 U.S.C. §
1125(c)(4)(B); Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Bucci,
97 Civ. 0629, 1997 WL 133313, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 24, 1997).
The commercial use requirement in § 43(a) tracks the commercial speech doctrine as developed by the United States Supreme Court. See Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Public Serv. Comm. of New York, 447 U.S. 557, 561 (1980). Following the Supreme Court's precedent, the Second Circuit has explained that "[t]he 'core notion' of commercial speech includes 'speech which does no more than propose a commercial transaction." ' Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. New York State Liquor Authority, 134 F.3d 87, 97 (2d Cir.1998) (quoting Bolger v. Youngs Drug Prod. Corp., 463 U.S. 60, 66 (1983)).
"The mere use of another's name on the Internet ... is not per se commercial use." Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. v. Faber, 29 F.Supp.2d 1161, 1166 (C.D.Cal.1998). Nor do the Gross websites offer any "commercial transaction." Defendants are not interior designers and do not sell visitors any products or services. However, the Gross websites contain hyperlinks to other websites which promote the services of other interior designers. See supra Part II.D. The Gross websites effectively act as a conduit, steering potential customers away from Bihari Interiors and toward its competitors, thereby transforming his otherwise protected speech into a commercial use. See Jews For Jesus v. Brodsky, 993 F.Supp. 282, 308 (D.N.J.1998) (defendant's site devoted to criticizing the Jews for Jesus movement is commercial because it includes a hyperlink to another Internet site which sells certain merchandise).
The fourth element requires that Defendant's use of the PETA Mark be made in connection with the sale, distribution, or advertising of goods or services. This does not require that Defendant actually caused goods or services to be placed into the stream of commerce. Jews for Jesus, 993 F.Supp. at 309. The term "services" has been interpreted broadly to include the dissemination of information, including purely ideological information. United We Stand America, Inc. v. United We Stand America New York, 128 F.3d 86, 89-90 (2nd Cir.1997) (citations omitted). Defendant's use of the PETA Mark was "in connection" with goods and services because the use of a misleading domain name has been found to be "in connection with the distribution of services" when it impacts on the Plaintiff's business:
Likelihood of Confusion
Second, § 43(a) is limited to uses likely to cause confusion
to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of [the defendant's] goods,
or commercial activities ...." 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A) (emphasis
added). . . 13. The likelihood of confusion question
requires analysis of the classic eight factor test established in
Corp. v. Polarad Elecs. Corp., 287 F.2d 492, 495 (2d Cir.1961).
-- Bihari v. Gross, No. OO Civ. 1664 (SAS), 8 (SDNY Sept 25, 2000) .
In order to succeed in a trademark infringement
Plaintiff must also prove that "there is a likelihood of confusion, or,
in other words, that numerous ordinary prudent purchasers are likely to
be misled or confused as to the source of the product in question
of the entrance in the marketplace of defendant's mark." Gruner, 991
at 1077. There must be an "appreciable number" of confused purchasers
sustain this burden. Mushroom Makers, 580 F.2d 44, 47 (2d Cir.1978).
Courts analyzing likelihood of confusion must consider the eight-factor Polaroid test articulated in Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Electronics Corp., 287 F.2d 492, 495 (2d Cir1961). The factors are a) strength of mark; b) degree of similarity between the marks; c) the proximity of the products; d) the likelihood that the senior user of mark will bridge the gap; e) evidence of actual confusion; f) the junior user's bad faith vel non in adopting the mark; g) the quality of the junior user's product; and h) the sophistication of the relevant consumer group.
In the context of the Internet, the Ninth Circuit has considered three factors: (1) the virtual identity of the marks; (2) the relatedness of plaintiff's and defendant's goods; and (3) the simultaneous use of the web as a marketing channel, as "most important." Brookfield Communications, Inc. v. West Coast Entertainment Corp., 174 F.3d 1036, 1054-58 (9th Cir.1999).
-- Greenpoint Financial Corp. v. The Sperry & Hutchinson Company, Inc., No. 00 CIV. 4681(DAB), 2000 WL 1364363, 3-4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2000))
Last, Defendant's use of PETA's Mark did cause
Doughney copied the Mark identically. This creates a presumption of
of confusion among internet users as a matter of law. New York State
of Certified Public Accountants v. Eric Louis Associates, Inc., 79
331, 340 (S.D.N.Y.1999). In addition, there was evidence of actual
by those using the internet who were trying to locate PETA and instead
found Doughney's web site.
-- People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, Inc., v. Doughney, No. CIV.A. 99-1336-A., 2000 WL 943353, 3 (E.D.Va. June 12, 2000)
The likelihood of confusion as to a product's source is evaluated by balancing the eight factors set forth in Judge Friendly's seminal opinion in Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Elecs. Corp., 287 F.2d 492 (2d Cir.1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 820, 82 S.Ct. 36, 7 L.Ed.2d 25 (1961). In considering plaintiff's claim here, this Court thus must examine the
The fact that Volkswagen and Virtual Works offer
different products is irrelevant since "both parties use the Internet
a facility to provide goods and services." Playboy Enterprises v.
International, 1998 WL 724000, *7 (E.D.Va.1998). See also, Cardservice
International v. McGee, 950 F.Supp. 737, 741 (E.D.Va.1997), aff'd 129
1258 (4th Cir.1997) (similar market channels exist because "both
are using the internet as the facility to provide their services").
Under Fourth Circuit law, evidence of actual confusion is not required but, it if present, is considered of "paramount importance" since it is "the best evidence of likely confusion." Resorts of Pinehurst, Inc. v. Pinehurst National Corp., 148 F.3d 417, 423 (4th Cir.1998); see also Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Virginia, Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 937 (4th Cir.1995). There has been actual confusion in this case. Virtual Works admitted that email communications directed to Volkswagen were received by Virtual Works. This evidence of actual confusion is determinative of infringement.
--Virtual Works, Inc., v. Network Solutions, Inc., Volkswagen Of America, Inc., No. Civ.A. 99-1289-A. 106 F.Supp.2d 845, 847 (E.D. Va Feb. 24, 2000).
The Court finds that the operation of the website
at www.americascup.com is likely to cause consumer confusion. The
appears for all intents and purposes to be masquerading as an official
site associated with the America's Cup event. The domain name
is virtually identical to the registered mark "America's Cup." The same
type of information is offered at both americascup.com and
Brookfield Communications v. West Coast Entertainment Corp., 174 F.3d
1053-61 (9th Cir.1999) (finding moviebuff.com similar to mark
Interstellar Starship Services Ltd. v. Epix Inc., 184 F.3d 1107,
(9th Cir.1999) (finding epix.com similar to mark EPIX).
-- Quokka Sports, Inc., v. Cup Int'l Ltd., No. C-99-5076-Dlj, 99 F.Supp.2d 1105, 1114 (NDCA Dec. 13, 1999).
With respect to the element of confusion, the First Circuit has held:
- Hasbro, Inc., v. Clue Computing, Inc.,
CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 121-22 (DMA Sept. 2, 1999).
Strength of Mark
A mark's strength is assessed by (1) the degree to which it is
distinctive; and (2) the degree to which it is distinctive in the
W.W.W. Pharmaceutical Co. v. Gillette Co., 808 F.Supp. 1013, 1022
aff'd, 984 F.2d 567 (2d Cir.1993). The strength of a mark should be
in its commercial context. Centaur Communications, 830 F.2d at 1226,
the geographic scope of Plaintiff's mark will impact its strength of
See W.W.W. Pharmaceutical, 984 F.2d at 567.
The GreenPoint mark is not inherently distinctive because it is a descriptive geographic term used by many businesses in the same geographic area. (Decl. Garrod, Ex. 3 (98% of the 214 active New York corporations using the "Greenpoint" name belonged to unrelated third party users); Def's Court Ex. J (identifying use of "Greenpoint" name by three insurance companies located in Brooklyn and Queens)). Further, as previously stated, Plaintiff has failed to established its secondary meaning. Use of Plaintiff's mark is primarily limited to the New York metropolitan area. Finally, there has been no showing that use of the term "GreenPoint," without the modifier "Bank" triggers an association with the Bank for any significant percentage of the public.
-- Greenpoint Financial Corp. v. The Sperry & Hutchinson Company, Inc., No. 00 CIV. 4681(DAB), 2000 WL 1364363, 4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2000))
Strength of the Mark. The strongest marks are
which are "arbitrary and fanciful," Calamari, 698 F.Supp. at 1006, a
which clearly does not apply to the common word "clue." Neither is the
plaintiff's mark "generic," the weakest type of mark, id., despite
a common word. "Generic" terms are those which refer to a category of
or service, without distinguishing the source or origin of the specific
product. Id. CLUE (R) clearly does not refer to a general category of
Hasbro's mark may be characterized as "descriptive," meaning that it
a characteristic of the article or service to which it refers" (in this
case, a game involving clues and mystery), but it appears to fit most
into the category of "suggestive" marks, which "connote rather than
a particular product or service and require the consumer's imagination
to reach a conclusion as to the nature of the product or service." Id.
at 1006-07. The mark CLUE suggests mystery or detective work but
the consumer's imagination to conclude that it refers to a mystery game.
In any case, Hasbro has fully demonstrated that the mark has secondary meaning, which refers to an association by consumers between the trade name and a single provider of the good or service, and which strengthens the mark. See id. at 1008. Secondary meaning can be established by evidence of long and exclusive use, the prominence of the plaintiff's enterprise, extensive advertising and promotion of the mark, and recognition of secondary meaning among the public. Id.; Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Wheeler, 814 F.2d 812, 816 (1st Cir.1987). Hasbro has provided evidence of all of these factors. (Riehl Decl. ¶¶ 3-12, Exs. A-D.) Thus, while CLUE (R) is not in the most protected category of trademarks, it is clearly a strong mark.
Nonetheless, the strength of a trademark is not decisive in an infringement inquiry. "[T]he muscularity of a mark, in and of itself, does not relieve the markholder of the burden to prove a realistic likelihood of confusion." IAM, 103 F.3d at 206. Here, Hasbro has not done so. Hasbro has produced evidence proving similarity of the marks and strength of its mark, but it has failed to produce any adequate evidence indicating intent to confuse, common channels of trade and advertising, common prospective purchasers, and the crucial categories of similarity of the products and actual confusion. Overall, Hasbro has failed to demonstrate, as a matter of law, that there is a likelihood that consumers will confuse Clue Computing's computer consulting Web site with Hasbro's game. Thus, Hasbro has failed to show a genuine issue of material fact on a crucial element of its federal trademark infringement claim, and Clue Computing is entitled to summary judgment on that claim.
-- Hasbro, Inc., v. Clue Computing, Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 125-26 (DMA Sept. 2, 1999).
Degree of Similarity Between the Marks
Similarity is weighed in light of whether (1) the
marks appear in connection with other identifying information, and (2)
the total effect of the designation. W.W.W. Pharmaceutical, at 573.
a similar mark is used in conjunction with a company name, the
of confusion is lessened. McGregor-Doniger v. Drizzle, 599 F.2d 1126,
When comparing similar domain names the "proper starting point should be the parties' respective trademarks, rather than domain addresses. The trademarks provide a broader dimension for analysis. Website addresses themselves, characterized by the style of uniformly lower case lettering and compressed wording, do not adequately express certain nuances of common meaning and understanding of words in the marks at issue in this case." Big Star Entertainment, Inc. v. Next Big Star Inc, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d 1685, 1698 (S.D.N.Y.2000).
In terms of similarity between the marks, at least the proposed trademark "Green Points" is similar to Plaintiff's stylized "GreenPoint." Defendants have not demonstrated that the company name S & H always precedes the "Green Points" mark. Furthermore, "greenpoint.com" and "greenpoints.com" are similar. However, to the degree that some confusion may inevitably arise from the proximity of the party's domain names, the Court believes the confusion would not be actionable because of the weakness of the other Polaroid factors.
-- Greenpoint Financial Corp. v. The Sperry & Hutchinson Company, Inc., No. 00 CIV. 4681(DAB), 2000 WL 1364363, 4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2000))
Similarity of the marks. The
at issue are essentially identical. Hasbro owns the trademark for CLUE
(R), while Clue Computing's web domain is "clue.com." However,
similar marks are not likely to be confused if they are used in
with clearly displayed names, logos or other source-identifying
of the manufacturer." International Ass'n of Machinists and Aerospace
v. Winship Green Nursing Ctr., 103 F.3d 196, 204 (1st Cir.1996)
"IAM "). Here, Clue Computing's Web site is clearly headed "Clue
contains a description of Clue Computing's business, and features a
noticeably different from that of the Hasbro game (even though the logo
contains a magnifying glass, as does some of the promotional material
the CLUE game). (See Levin Decl., Ex. C; compare Levin Decl.,Ex. B.)
surrounding conditions mitigate somewhat the similarity of the marks,
they do not change the fact that the domain name itself, without
going to the Web page, is identical to Hasbro's mark. "Still,
is determined on the basis of the designation's total effect, and
'does not exist, though the marks be identical and the goods very
when the evidence indicates no [likelihood of confusion].' " IAM, 103
at 203-04 (quoting James Burrough Ltd. v. Sign of the Beeffeater, Inc.,
540 F.2d 266, 274) (7th Cir.1976)) (citation omitted). Ultimately, the
similarity of the marks here will not be decisive if other factors
a lack of confusion.
- Hasbro, Inc., v. Clue Computing, Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 122 (DMA Sept. 2, 1999).
Proximity of the Products
"This factor addresses whether and to what extent the parties
with each other." Conopco, Inc. v. Cosmair, Inc., 49 F.Supp.2d 242, 251
(S.D.N.Y.1999) (citing W.W.W. Pharmaceutical Co., 984 F.2d at 573). "In
making this assessment 'the court may consider whether the products
in content, geographic distribution, market position, and audience
' Id. (quoting W.W.W. Pharmaceutical Co at 573).
S & H Greenpoints is a program allowing consumers to earn points toward a variety of merchandise and services. GreenPoint Financial is a banking and mortgage lending service. Although both operate on the Internet, the diversity of services offered, precludes a finding of likelihood of confusion.
Plaintiff attempts to mask the inherent differences between the two companies. While Plaintiff alleges in its brief that the parties provide similar products as Plaintiff provides "online banking ... while Defendants offer online services," see Mem. Law at 17, the services offered by the two companies are truly apples and oranges.
-- Greenpoint Financial Corp. v. The Sperry & Hutchinson Company, Inc., No. 00 CIV. 4681(DAB), 2000 WL 1364363, 5 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2000))
Similarity of Goods and Services. I find very
similarity between Hasbro's products and Clue Computing's services.
CLUE is promoted, even in its CD-ROM form, as "The Classic Detective
(See Larson Sept. 25 Aff., Ex. S.) Clue Computing, according to its Web
site, "offers a wide array of computing consulting services for
needing dependable, high quality work done at a reasonable price."
Decl., Ex. C.) These products as presented on the Internet--the arena
issue in this case--could scarcely be more different.
Hasbro, however, attempts to show that their product and Clue Computing's product do in fact have substantial overlap. Hasbro provides on-line technical support to users of its CLUE (R) CD-ROM game, (Puffer Decl. ¶ 2), which it alleges is similar to the support services that Clue Computing provides. (Pl. Hasbro, Inc.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 16.) First, it is an extraordinary stretch to assert that Hasbro's technical support to game users is similar in any meaningful way to the "computing consulting services" provided by Clue Computing. Second, even to the extent that Hasbro may provide similar services, these services are at most a small component of the CLUE product and are entirely subordinate to its nature as a game. CLUE players seeking on- line support services will be seeking Web sites dedicated to the game, not to computer services in general. I do not find Hasbro's argument to be persuasive.
Hasbro also asserts that Clue Computing's inclusion of "The Land of the Faerie, a recently-released album by Darrah Nagle," (Levin Decl., Ex. C at H0067) in their Web site shows that Clue Computing provides entertainment services similar to those at Hasbro's CLUE-related Web sites. "The Land of the Faerie" appears completely irrelevant to this dispute; it is not prominently featured on Clue Computing's site and in any case has no particular connection to the game CLUE.
Courts have generally required far stronger showings than those present here to find similarity of goods. The First Circuit, for example, found two products dissimilar even though both were cameras because "[t]heir appearances are strikingly different so much so that one could not be mistaken for the other." Pignons S.A. de Mecanique de Precision v. Polaroid Corp., 657 F.2d 482, 487 (1st Cir.1981).
-- Hasbro, Inc., v. Clue Computing, Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 122-23 (DMA Sept. 2, 1999).
This factor refers to the likelihood of Plaintiff's entry into
area of commerce. Plaintiff deals in personal savings accounts,
mortgages and financing of manufactured housing. Plaintiff issues
cards. Defendants provide no banking services and provide redemption of
points for consumers who purchase products and services at institutions
that are clients of the Defendant. One such client, includes a bank
in Boston that provides credit cards. The Court does not foresee, on
evidence presented, that the Plaintiff will engage in point redemption
for consumer merchandise.
-- Greenpoint Financial Corp. v. The Sperry & Hutchinson Company, Inc., No. 00 CIV. 4681(DAB), 2000 WL 1364363, 5 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2000))
Channels of Trade
Channels of Trade; Advertising; Classes of Prospective Purchasers. In accordance with First Circuit precedent, see IAM, 103 F.3d at 204; Star, 89 F.3d at 10 n. 3, I will here consider these three categories together. Clue Computing conducts most of its business, including publicizing its services, through the Internet. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 5.) Hasbro has advertised the game CLUE in many different forums, including promotional trade catalogs, television commercials, and promotional literature included in the packaging of other Hasbro games, (Riehl Decl. ¶ 8),5 and has sold many copies of the game through retail stores, among other outlets. (Riehl Decl., Ex. B.) Hasbro has also in recent years begun advertising and selling its CLUE products over the Internet, creating some overlap with Clue Computing in advertising and channels of trade. (Puffer Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4-5.)
Actual confusion means "consumer confusion that enables a seller to
pass off his goods as the goods of another." See Sports Authority, Inc.
v. Prime Hospitality Corp., 89 F.3d 955, 963 (2d Cir.1996) (quoting
Pharmaceutical Co. v. Gillette Co., 984 F.2d 567, 574 (2d Cir.1993)).
show actual confusion the senior user must demonstrate that the alleged
infringing party " 'could inflict commercial injury in the form of
a diversion of sales, damage to goodwill, or loss of control over
' Sports Authority, Inc., 89 F.3d at 963.
"[T]he relevant confusion is that which affects 'the purchasing and selling of the goods or service in question." ' See Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Co., 949 F.2d 576, 583 (2d Cir.1991). As such, a suit for "trademark infringement protects only against mistaken purchasing decisions and not against confusion generally." Lang, 949 F.2d at 583.
Evidence supporting existence of actual confusion, includes "mistaken orders, complaints from customers or website visitors, market surveys or other signs of uncertainty reflecting actual consumer confusion." See Big Star Entertainment, Inc. v. Next Big Star Inc., 54 U.S.P.Q.2d at 1705.
Plaintiff's counsel concedes that the purpose of the survey evidence was to demonstrate dilution rather than actual confusion. Plaintiff's counsel states that the survey is "strictly a dilution study within the geographic area that was surveyed among the respondents that were surveyed."
For the reasons stated above, under the likelihood that the senior user will bridge the gap, the Court finds no evidence of the existence of actual confusion despite random e-mails to Plaintiff's bank from potential customers whom, in the Court's opinion, they would be better off without, inquiring about gift redemption.
-- Greenpoint Financial Corp. v. The Sperry & Hutchinson Company, Inc., No. 00 CIV. 4681(DAB), 2000 WL 1364363, 5-6 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2000))
Actual Confusion. From the more than four years
Clue Computing began using the "clue.com" domain name, Hasbro has
only a few scraps of evidence of actual confusion between Clue
Web site and Hasbro's trademark. Plaintiff has produced three emails,
two sent three minutes apart by the same person, directed to the email
address link on Clue Computing's Web site asking about the game CLUE.
Decl., Ex. G.) There is no way to verify the source or authenticity of
two of the emails, so they are of limited value as evidence. Hasbro has
produced an affidavit from the author of the third email saying that
was confused by the defendant's Web site and thought that it was
to technical support for Plaintiff's CLUE CD-ROM. (Magestro Decl.)
also submitted an affidavit from one other customer who contacted the
after apparently searching for Hasbro's Web site without success and
becoming confused by Clue Computing's "clue.com" site. (Britt Decl.)
The fact that one, two or three people over four years may have expressed confusion between Clue Computing's Web site and Hasbro's game does not constitute the level of actual confusion necessary to support a general finding of likelihood of confusion. "[A] single misdirected communication is very weak evidence of consumer confusion." Pignons, 657 F.2d at 490. Indeed, several cases in this circuit have held similar evidence inadequate to show confusion. See id. at 489-91 (finding that a misdirected order for a camera and a deposition suggesting an instance of possible customer confusion over a four year period did not constitute a likelihood of confusion); Black Dog, 823 F.Supp. at 56 (finding that, when plaintiff produced evidence of a comment confusing the two products and at least one request to plaintiff for defendant's product in a two year period, "the absence of more evidence of actual confusion weighs against a finding of likelihood of confusion"); IAM, 103 F.3d at 205-06 (finding that several alleged inquiries as to whether plaintiffs authored defendants' letter were insufficient and did not change the fact that "no person of ordinary prudence" would have been confused). By contrast, cases in which courts in this circuit found actual confusion contained significantly more evidence. See Calamari Fisheries, Inc. v. The Village Catch, Inc., 698 F.Supp. 994, 1003-04, 1011 (D.Mass.1988) (evidence including a newspaper article confusing the plaintiff's and defendant's restaurants and numerous affidavits from staff people and customers detailing many instances of confusion between the restaurants); Edison Brothers Stores, Inc. v. National Dev. Group, Inc., 1992 WL 55465, at *3 (D.Mass. Mar.6, 1992) ("plaintiff has made a strong demonstration by submitting uncontradicted affidavits" with numerous instances of confusion).
Furthermore, to the extent that Ms. Magestro's and Mr. Britt's affidavits show actual confusion, they do not show reasonable confusion, which is required to find infringement. "[T]he law has long demanded a showing that the allegedly infringing conduct carries with it a likelihood of confounding an appreciable number of reasonably prudent purchasers exercising ordinary care. This means, of course, that confusion resulting from the consuming public's carelessness, indifference, or ennui will not suffice." IAM, 103 F.3d at 201 (citations omitted). Considering the vast difference between Clue Computing's services and Hasbro's game and the explicitness of Clue Computing's Web site as to the nature of its business, any confusion shown by Hasbro seems to fit into the latter category of "carelessness, indifference, or ennui." 7
Initial Interest Confusion
Even if actual confusion is unlikely, Plaintiffs argue that there is a likelihood of "initial interest confusion." See Pl. Sup. Mem. at 7-10. Accepting, arguendo, the concept of initial interest confusion in an Internet case,14 Bihari has failed to prove a likelihood of initial interest confusion.
The Ninth Circuit recently provided a useful metaphor for explaining the harm of initial interest confusion in cyberspace:
Furthermore, users are unlikely to experience initial interest confusion when searching the Internet for information about Bihari Interiors. In support of their motion, Plaintiffs' counsel provided a typical search result when "Bihari Interiors" is entered into the search field. See MetaCrawler Search Results from March 16, 2000 ("3/16/2000 Search Results"), Ex. C to 3/16/00 Letter from Brian Maas, Esq., Counsel for Bihari, to Court ("3/16/00 Maas Letter"). The search revealed twelve websites, eight of which appear to be the Gross websites. Of those eight, five bear the heading "Manhattan Interior Design Scam--Bihari Interiors." Each website with that heading contains the following description underneath the title: "This site deals with the problems experienced when hiring a New York City (Manhattan) designer. It discusses Marianne Bihari[,] fraud and deceit and...." 3/16/2000 Search Results, Ex. C to 3/16/2000 Maas Letter, at 1 (ellipses in original). An Internet user who reads this text, and then sees the domain name of "designscam.com" or "manhattaninteriordesign.com", is unlikely to believe that these websites belong to Bihari Interiors or Bihari.16 See Brookfield Communications, 174 F.3d at 1062 (relying on search engine results and different domain names to show that level of confusion is less severe when mark is included as a metatag as compared to mark's inclusion in domain name).
Similarly, in Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Asiafocus Int'l, Inc., No. Civ. A. 97- 734-A, 1998 WL 724000, at *3,*6- *7 (E.D.Va. Apr. 10, 1998), the court enjoined use of the marks "Playboy" and "Playmate" in the domain name and metatags of defendant's website. The defendant provided adult nude photos on webpages located at "asian-playmates.com" and "playmates-asian.com". The "Playboy" and "Playmate" trademarks were embedded in the metatags such that a search for Playboy Enterprises Inc.'s ("Playboy") website would produce a list that included "asian-playmates.com". See id. at *3,*5- *6; see also Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Calvin Designer Label, 985 F.Supp. 1220, 1221 (N.D.Cal.1997) (preliminarily enjoining defendant's website, "www.playboyxxx.com" and repeated use of the "Playboy" trademark in defendant's metatags). Defendants in these cases were clearly attempting to divert potential customers from Playboy's website to their own.
Even Brookfield Communications, where initial interest confusion was first applied to metatags, presents convincing proof of diversion. Brookfield sought to protect its trademark in its "MovieBuff" software, which provides entertainment-industry information. Brookfield had created a website offering an Internet-based searcheable database under the "Moviebuff" mark. The defendant, West Coast, a video rental store chain, registered a site at "moviebuff.com" which also contained a searchable entertainment database. The court held that defendant's use of the "moviebuff.com" domain name constituted trademark infringement. See id. at 1061. The court also enjoined West Coast from using any term confusingly similar to "moviebuff" in the metatags based on the initial interest confusion caused by the use of Brookfield's mark, which would redound to West Coast's financial benefit. See id. at 1065.
In each of these cases, the defendant was using the plaintiff's mark to trick Internet users into visiting defendant's website, believing either that they were visiting plaintiff's website or that the defendant's website was sponsored by the plaintiff. As more fully discussed below, see infra Part IV.A.3.e, Gross's use of the "Bihari Interiors" mark in the metatags is not a bad-faith attempt to trick users into visiting his websites, but rather a means of cataloging those sites.
Intent. Plaintiff has produced no evidence that Clue Computing intended to create confusion among consumers between its services and Hasbro's game. The fact that Clue Computing's founders knew of the existence of the game (Levin Decl., Ex. K at 7, Ex. L at 4) does not in any sense mean that they intended for their company to infringe upon or benefit from Hasbro's mark. See Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc. v. Utah Div. of Travel Dev., 955 F.Supp. 605, 620 (E.D.Va.1997), aff'd, 170 F.3d 449 (4th Cir.1999) (hereinafter "Ringling 1 ") ("Utah's adoption and use of its mark notwithstanding its knowledge of Ringling's famous mark cannot, without more, demonstrate predatory intent."). Similarly, Hasbro's opinion that Clue Computing chose a logo "suspiciously similar" to the graphics for the CLUE game is not persuasive in showing intent. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 21; Levin Decl., Ex. E.) Both logos use a magnifying glass, but the word 'clue' has long been associated with detectives and magnifying glasses, independent of Hasbro's game. Hasbro has produced no evidence that gives rise to an inference of intent. I note, however, that the First Circuit recently commented that courts should not give great weight to a finding of lack of intent in determining likelihood of confusion because the presence or absence of intent does not impact the perception of consumers whose potential confusion is at issue. See Lund, 163 F.3d at 44.
- Hasbro, Inc., v. Clue Computing, Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 125 (DMA Sept. 2, 1999).
Registration Not Required
Registration is not a prerequisite to protection under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act. See Forschner Group, Inc. v. Arrow Trading Co., 124 F.3d 402, 407 (2d Cir.1997).
-- Bigstar Entertainment, Inc., v. Next Big Star, Inc., No. 00 Civ. 0911 VM, 105 F.Supp.2d 185, 191 (SDNY April 17, 2000).
The requirement that a trademark be used in its descriptive sense is met where the mark is used in an index or catalog, or to describe the defendant's connection to the business claiming trademark protection. See Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc. v. Comline Bus. Data, Inc., 166 F.3d 65, 73-74 (2d Cir.1999) (permitting fair use defense where defendant, a company that gathers news articles and sells "abstracts" summarizing the articles, routinely used the plaintiff's mark in the reference line of its abstracts to identify the source of the article abstracted by the defendant); Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition § 28 cmt. a (1995) (fair use defense protects a subsequent user's use of a personal name designation "if the name is used solely to indicate truthfully the named person's connection with the goods, services, or business."). Applying this general rule to the metatag context, Professor McCarthy states: "[T]he fair use defense applies ... if another's trademark is used in a meta tag solely to describe the defendant or defendant's goods or services...." 4 J. Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition ("McCarthy"), § 25:69 at 25-137 (4th ed.1999). This position finds support in recent cases. In Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Welles, 7 F.Supp.2d 1098 (S.D.Cal.1998), Playboy sought to enjoin Terri Welles, a former "Playmate of the Month" and "Playmate of the Year", from utilizing the trademarked terms "Playboy" and "Playmate" in the metatags of Welles's website. The court denied the injunction, holding that use of the trademarked terms in the metatags is a fair use. The court stated:
Here, Gross has included "Bihari Interiors" in the metatags of his websites because the websites provide information about Bihari Interiors and Marianne Bihari. Gross has not used the terms "Bihari Interiors" and "Bihari" in the metatags as a mark, but rather, to fairly identify the content of his websites. In short, Gross uses the "Bihari Interiors" mark in its descriptive sense only.
Moreover, use of the "Bihari Interiors" mark in the metatags of his websites is the only way Gross can get his message to the public. See Bally Total Fitness, 29 F.Supp.2d at 1165 ("Prohibiting [the defendant] from using Bally's name in the machine readable code would effectively isolate him from all but the most savvy of Internet users."). A broad rule prohibiting use of "Bihari Interiors" in the metatags of websites not sponsored by Bihari would effectively foreclose all discourse and comment about Bihari Interiors, including fair comment. Courts must be particularly cautious of overextending the reach of the Lanham Act and intruding on First Amendment values. Cf. Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994, 998 (2d Cir.1989) (holding that movie titles using a celebrity's name will not be actionable under the Lanham Act unless the title has no artistic relevance to the underlying work or if the title misleads as to the source or the content of the work); 4 McCarthy, § 27:91 at 27-140 ("Whether through the use of statutory interpretation or concern for free speech, traditional protections for commentators and critics on business and commercial affairs must not be jettisoned. It is important to create critical breathing space for legitimate comment and criticism about products and services."). The Second Circuit's warning in a recent Internet case to proceed cautiously when dealing with the frontier of expressive speech on the Internet is particularly instructive:
To benefit from the defense of fair use, Gross must have acted in good faith. The inquiry into a defendant's good faith focuses on whether "the defendant adopted its mark with the intention of capitalizing on plaintiff's reputation and goodwill and any confusion between his and the senior user's product." Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Co., Inc., 949 F.2d 576, 583 (2d Cir.1991).
Bihari argues, in a conclusory fashion, that Gross did not adopt the "Bihari Interiors" mark in good faith. Rather, Gross intended to divert individuals searching for information about Bihari Interiors to his websites. See Pl. Mem. at 33; Pl. Sup. Mem. at 8. This argument is not persuasive. Metatags serve as a cataloging system for a search engine. Gross has the right to catalog the contents of his websites. Furthermore, the fact that Gross knew of the prior use of the "Bihari Interiors" mark does not in itself prove a lack of good faith. "[P]rior knowledge of [plaintiff's] trade name does not give rise to a necessary inference of bad faith, because adoption of a trademark with actual knowledge of another's prior registration ... may be consistent with good faith." Lang, 949 F.2d at 583-84; Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition § 28 cmt. d ("Knowledge of a prior trademark use of the term does not in itself prove a lack of good faith.").
In addition, the domain names of the Gross websites and the disclaimer prove that Gross is using "Bihari Interiors" in good faith. The domain names of his websites in no way confuse Internet users into believing that his site is actually that of Bihari Interiors. See, e.g., Planned Parenthood, 1997 WL 133313, at *8- *10 (defendant's anti-abortion website violates the Lanham Act because, among other reasons, it was registered at "www.plannedparenthood.com", and the site greeted users with "Welcome to the PLANNED PARENTHOOD HOME PAGE"). Moreover, the Gross websites include a disclaimer: "Keep in mind that this site reflects only the view points and experiences of one Manhattan couple...." See Amended Complaint ¶ 92. Although a disclaimer cannot insulate Gross from liability, it indicates good faith use of the service marks and weighs in Gross's favor. See Consumers Union of United States, Inc. v. General Signal Corp., 724 F.2d 1044, 1053 (2d Cir.1983) ("Disclaimers are a favored way of alleviating consumer confusion as to source or sponsorship"); Welles, 7 F.Supp.2d at 1104. Even if the Gross websites are mean-spirited and vindictive, bad faith cannot be imputed as well to Gross's use of the "Bihari Interiors" mark in the metatags. See Nihon Keiza Shimbun, 166 F.3d at 74 (holding that use of plaintiff's mark is in good faith even though "other aspects of defendants' behavior may have evidenced bad faith.").
-- Bihari v. Gross, No. OO Civ. 1664 (SAS), 13 (SDNY Sept 25, 2000).
Federal Trademark Dilution Act
Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995, Pub.L. No. 104-98, 109 Stat. 985 (codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1125, 1127 (Supp.1996)).
The Second Circuit recently outlined the five necessary elements to a claim of federal dilution: (1) the senior mark must be famous; (2) it must be distinctive; (3) the junior use must be a commercial use in commerce: (4) it must begin after the senior mark has become famous; and (5) it must cause dilution of the distinctive quality of the senior mark. Nabisco, Inc v. PF Brands, Inc, 191 F.3d 208 (2d Cir.1999).
-- People For The Ethical
Of Animals, Inc., v. Doughney, No. CIV.A. 99-1336-A., 2000 WL 943353, 4
(E.D.Va. June 12, 2000)
But Sportsman's might, nonetheless, be eligible for damages under
FTDA since there is nothing in the ACPA that precludes, in
cases, the award of damages under any pre-existing law. See 15 U.S.C
1125(d)(3) (providing that any remedies created by the new act are "in
addition to any other civil action or remedy otherwise applicable").
the FTDA, "[t]he owner of the famous mark shall be entitled only to
relief unless the person against whom the injunction is sought
intended to trade on the owner's reputation or to cause dilution of the
famous mark." Id. § 1125(c)(2) (emphasis added). Accordingly,
willful intent to dilute is demonstrated, the owner of the famous mark
is--subject to the principles of equity--entitled to recover (1)
(2) the dilutor's profits, and (3) costs. See id.; see also id. §
1117(a) (specifying remedies).
-- Sporty's Farm L.L.C., V. Sportsman's Market, Inc., 202 F.3d 489, 500 (2nd Cir. 2000)
Elements of Cause of Action
The FTDA states:
- Hasbro, Inc., v.
Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 130 (DMA Sept.
[t]he owner of a famous mark shall be entitled ... to an injunction against another person's commercial use in commerce of a mark or trade name, if such use begins after the mark has become famous and cuases dilution of the dnstinctive quality of the mark.15 USC s 1125(c). At issue in this case is whether Defendats' use of the FORM mark is "commercial." In support of its assertion that Defendant's use is "commercial," Ford relies upon the case Planned PArenthood Federation of America, Inc v. Bucci, No 97 Civ 0629 (KMW), 1997 WL 133313 (SDNY March 24, 1997). The defendant in that case, an active participant in the anti-abortion movement, registered the domain name "plannedparenthood.com" and set up a website advertising an anti-abortion book entitled The Cost of Abortion. The plaintiff, Planned PArenthood Federation of America, Inc. (Planned Parenthood), sought to enjoin the defendant from using the "plannedparenthood.com" domain. In addressing Planned Parenthood's likelihood of succeeding on itts dilution claim, the court concluded tthat the defendant's use of the disputed domain name was "commercial" (1) because although defendant did not profit personally from Internet sales, his "self-styled effort to 'plug' The Cost of Abortion [fell] within the purview of the commercial view requirement"; (2) because defendant's use of the "planned parenthood.com" domain was deemed "part and parcel" of his broader efforts to solicit contributions for the anti-abortion movement; and (3) because defendant's actions were "designed to, and do, harm plaintiff commercially." Id. at 5.
Similarly, in Jews for Jesus v Brodsky, 993 FSupp 282 (DNJ) aff'd 159 F3d 1351 (3d Cir 1998), the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey found that the defendant's use of plaintiff's mark in the domain name "jewsforjesus.com" constituted "commercial use" because the site was "a conduit" to another of the defendant's webpages, which conducted fund raising through the sale of merchandise. Looing beyond this fact, however, the court added that
[t]he conduct of the Defendant also contitutes a commercial use of the MArk and the Name of the Plaintiff Organization because it is designed to harm the Plaintiff Organization commercially by disparaging it and preventing the Plaintiff Organization from exploiting the Mark and the Name of the Plaintiff Organization. In addition, the Defendant Internet site has and will continute to inhibit the efforts of Internet users to locate the Plaintiff organization Intenret site.Id. at 308.
Dilution is "the lessening of the capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish goods or services." 15 U.S.C. 1127.
As Professor McCarthy has stated:
. . . . .
Concerning federal dilution, the term "fame" is used in its "ordinary English language sense." Nabisco, 191 F.2d at 215. "The geographic fame of the mark must extend throughout a substantial portion of the U.S." HRRep No. 374, 104th Cong., 1st Sess.1995, 1996 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1029, 1030-31 (cited in Star Markets Ltd. v. Texaco, Inc., 950 F.Supp. 1030, 1034 (D.Haw 1996)).
While one district court has granted federal dilution protection for alleged fame within a several county area, see Gazette Newspapers, Inc. v. New Paper, Inc., 934 F.Supp. 688 (D.Md.1996), the Court concludes that opinion is in conflict with Congressional intent. Operation within a five state region is the next smallest geographical extent found protected under the dilution statute. Star Markets, 950 F.Supp. at 1034 (citing WAWA, Inc. v. Haaf, 1996 WL 460083 (E.D.Pa. Aug 7, 1996)).
Here, Plaintiff has conceded that it lacks fame outside of the tri-state, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey area. Accordingly, Plaintiff cannot meet the fame requirement for federal dilution protection.
The FTDA provides a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider in order to determine whether a mark is "distinctive and famous":
(B) the duration and extent of use of the mark in connection with the goods or services with which the mark is used;
(C) the duration and extent of advertising and publicity of the mark;
(D) the geographical extent of the trading area in which the mark is used;
(E) the channels of trade for the goods or services with which the mark is used;
(F) the degree of recognition of the mark in the trading areas and channels of trade used by the mark's owner and the person against whom the injunction is sought;
(G) the nature and extent of use of the same or similar marks by third parties; and
(H) whether the mark was registered....
Two of the statutory factors deserve slightly more consideration: the distinctiveness of the mark9 and third party uses of it. The factors discussed above--the widespread recognition of Hasbro's mark and its longtime use and advertising--suggest "acquired distinctiveness," which is recognized by the FTDA. However, as Clue Computing points out, "clue" is a common word with a variety of meanings, and at least one court has indicated that a mark may not be entitled to protection from dilution by use consistent with that mark's usage as a common word. See Polo Ralph Lauren L.P. v. Schuman, 1998 WL 110059, at *12 (S.D.Tex. Feb.9, 1998) (finding that defendant's use of the word 'Polo' in the name of his adult entertainment club traded on the plaintiff's mark, rather than on the common meaning of the word). Here, defendant's use of the word 'clue' is entirely consistent with the common usage of the word.
To be sure, some courts appear to have found marks to be famous in situations roughly analogous to this one. See Lozano Enterprises v. La Opinion Publishing Co., 44 U.S.P.Q.2d 1764, 1769 (C.D.Cal.1997) (finding that the Spanish phrase "la opinion" is subject to FTDA protection as a famous mark). In Johnson Publishing Co. v. Willitts Designs Int'l, Inc., 1998 WL 341618, at *7 (N.D.Ill. June 22, 1998), the court found the relatively common word "ebony" to be a famous mark, noting that "[t]hough there is some evidence of substantial third-party use of marks with the term 'Ebony' or with similar terms, this is not sufficient to overcome other factors indicating that the EBONY mark is famous." Id.
I find more persuasive, however, the opinions of other courts faced with marks consisting of relatively common terms and with use of the same terms by third parties, which have concluded that the contested marks were not sufficiently famous to warrant FTDA protection. See Columbia, 964 F.Supp. at 750 (finding that "any acquired distinctiveness" of Columbia University's mark for the name Columbia "in connection with medical or healthcare services has been seriously undermined by third party use of the same or similar marks"); Sports Authority, Inc. v. Abercrombie & Fitch, Inc., 965 F.Supp. 925, 941 (E.D.Mich.1997) (finding that the Sports Authority's trademark for "authority" has been diminished by third party use and was "not so famous as to deserve protection under the federal dilution statute"). More importantly, the First Circuit has set out a high standard for district courts to find that a mark is famous for the purposes of the FTDA. In Lund, the First Circuit wrote that "courts should be discriminating and selective in categorizing a mark as famous" and noted the "rigorous standard of fame." 163 F.3d at 46-47. Given this high standard, I find Hasbro has failed to establish that its mark, which is a common word that numerous third parties use, is famous and thus entitled to protection from dilution. I will, nonetheless, proceed to the substantive dilution analysis.
Defendant is guilty of "blurring" the famous PETA Mark because (1) Defendant used the identical PETA Mark to mentally associate PETA.ORG to the PETA Mark; and (2) such use caused; (3) actual economic harm to the PETA Mark by lessening its selling power as an advertising agent for PETA's goods and services. Ringling Bros., 170 F.3d at 458. Doughney's site included materials antithetical to the purpose and message of PETA in that "PETA.ORG" included links to commercial enterprises engaged in conduct directly contrary to PETA's animal protection efforts.
Judge Sweet, in a widely cited Second Circuit concurring opinion, identified six concrete factors for courts to consider in determining whether the vague concept of 'blurring' applies to a specific case: "(1) similarity of the marks (2) similarity of the products covered by the marks (3) sophistication of consumers (4) predatory intent (5) renown of the senior mark (6) renown of the junior mark." Mead Data Central, Inc. v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., 875 F.2d 1026, 1035 (2d Cir.1989) (Sweet, J., concurring). Although this list was initially drafted in the context of a state dilution statute, several courts have accepted Judge Sweet's test for determining dilution by blurring under the FTDA. See, e.g., Ringling 3, 937 F.Supp. at 211; Clinique Laboratories, Inc. v. DEP Corp., 945 F.Supp. 547, 562 (S.D.N.Y.1996).
The First Circuit, however, recently rejected the "Sweet factors," agreeing with commentators that these factors "are the offspring of classical likelihood of confusion analysis and are not particularly relevant or helpful in resolving the issues of dilution by blurring." Lund, 163 F.3d at 49 (quoting 3 McCarthy § 24:94.1). More specifically, the First Circuit accepted McCarthy's analysis that four of the factors--intent, similarity of the products, sophistication of customers, and renown of the junior mark--"work directly contrary to the intent of a law whose primary purpose was to apply in cases of widely differing goods, i.e. Kodak pianos and Kodak film." Id. (citing 3 McCarthy § 24:94.1). The First Circuit noted McCarthy's conclusion that only two of the factors--the similarity of the marks and the renown of the senior mark--are relevant to dilution analysis. Id.See also Ringling 2, 170 F.3d at 464 (The 4th Circuit agreed with the 1st Circuit and commentators that "by and large, the Mead-factor analysis simply is not appropriate for assessing a claim under the federal Act.")
The First Circuit concluded, " 'The familiar test of similarity used in the traditional likelihood of confusion test cannot be the guide [for dilution analysis], for likelihood of confusion is not the test of dilution.' ... Instead, the inquiry is into whether target customers are likely to view the products 'as essentially the same.' " Id. at 50 (quoting 3 McCarthy § 24:90.1). The First Circuit provided no further analysis of the appropriate dilution standard, concluding that a broad reading of dilution would create constitutional problems under the Patent Clause in the context of a trade dress for a product design, which was at issue in Lund, and further concluding that the plaintiff had not shown a likelihood of success on its dilution claim under the standard set out in Lund. Id. I note, however, that the First Circuit did assert that "the dilution standard is a rigorous one." Id. at 33.
Because the First Circuit in Lund undertook to provide only limited guidance regarding what the test for dilution ought to be--as opposed to what the test should not be--I look to McCarthy, upon whom the First Circuit heavily relied. McCarthy states that for blurring, "the marks must be similar enough that a significant segment of the target group sees the two marks as essentially the same."11 3 McCarthy § 24:90.1. As noted above, he describes blurring as "one mark seen by customers as now identifying two sources." Id. Further, "[t]he plaintiff must prove that the capacity of the mark to continue to be strong and famous will be endangered by the defendant's use" even if the defendant's use is too small or minor to actually weaken the plaintiff's mark. Id. at § 24:94 (emphasis in original). Finally, McCarthy cautions:
13. I note that any mark found to be famous, a prerequisite for protection from dilution, would presumably also have renown, making this factor largely duplicative.
The analysis here is different from but similar to infringement analysis, in which Clue Computing was found entitled to summary judgment. There, the crucial factor of a lack of actual confusion, which is not part of the blurring analysis, also weighed in Clue Computing's favor. In addition, to be sure, the dissimilarity of the products, which benefits Clue Computing, takes on much greater significance in infringement analysis because similarity of products can lead to a likelihood of confusion, which is required for infringement but not for blurring. In the infringement analysis, those crucial factors led me to conclude that Hasbro had not proven any genuine issue of material fact that would allow a rational factfinder to find for them on confusion. Parallel findings satisfy me as the factfinder under the FTDA that Hasbro has not demonstrated dilution.
-- Hasbro, Inc., v. Clue Computing, Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 134-36 (DMA Sept. 2, 1999).
Cybersquatting per se dilution
Recent case law holds that internet cyperpiracy constitutes per se trademark dilution. See Panavision Int'l., L.P. v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1327 (9th Cir.1998) (holding that misappropriating domain name "panavision.com" and attempting to sell that domain name to the rightful owner of Panavision mark constituted dilution). Dilution is "the lessening of a capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish go`ods and services, regardless of the presence or absence of--(1) competition between the owner of the famous mark and other parties, or (2) likelihood of confusion, mistake, or deception. 15 U.S.C. § 1127." Washington Speakers Bureau, 33 F.Supp.2d at 502 (E.D.Va.1999). Courts have held that dilution may be done by "blurring" which is described as "if the defendant uses the word as its own trademark for goods that are so different that no confusion of source or sponsorship can occur." 3 McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition § 24:103 at 24-188 (4th ed.1998). For example, "the use of DuPont shoes, Buick aspirin and Kodak pianos would be actionable" under the law of trademark dilution. Washington Speakers Bureau, 33 F.Supp.2d 488 at fn. 32. VW being associated with Virtual Works instead of Volkswagen constitutes trademark dilution. Volkswagen has experienced economic harm as a result of not being able to use VW.NET and as a result of this dilution by Virtual Works.
I join those courts finding that, while use of a trademark as a domain name to extort money from the markholder or to prevent that markholder from using the domain name may be per se dilution, a legitimate competing use of the domain name is not. Holders of a famous mark are not automatically entitled to use that mark as their domain name; trademark law does not support such a monopoly. If another Internet user has an innocent and legitimate reason for using the famous mark as a domain name and is the first to register it, that user should be able to use the domain name, provided that it has not otherwise infringed upon or diluted the trademark. I reject Hasbro's request for a per se dilution rule and instead turn to whether Clue Computing has diluted Hasbro's CLUE (R) mark under existing dilution standards.
-- Hasbro, Inc., v. Clue Computing, Inc., No. CIV. A. 97-10065-DPW, 66 F.Supp.2d 117, 132-33 (DMA Sept. 2, 1999).
15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) provides, inter alia, a "federal cause of action for false representation as to the origin of goods. The Polaroid factors, which are used to evaluate confusion in infringement cases, are also applicable in cases under 43(a). Nikon, Inc. v. Ikon Corp., 987 F.2d 91, 94 (2d Cir.1993).
Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA"), Pub.L. No. 106-113 (1999), see HRRep No. 106-479 (Nov. 18, 1999)
15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)
On November 29, 1999, Congress adopted the ACPA "to remedy the perceived shortcomings of applying the FTDA [Federal Trademark Dilution Act] in cybersquatting cases." Sporty's Farm L.L.C. v. Sportsman's Market, Inc., 202 F.3d 489, 495 (2d Cir.2000). To establish a claim of cybersquatting, a plaintiff must show: (1) that she had a distinctive mark at the time of the registration of the domain name; (2) that the defendant "registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name" that is identical or confusingly similar to that mark; and (3) that the defendant has "a bad faith intent to profit from that mark." 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1).9 A preliminary injunction is a remedy authorized by the ACPA. See 15 U.S.C. § 1116(a).
As we noted above, while this appeal was pending, Congress passed the ACPA. That law was passed "to protect consumers and American businesses, to promote the growth of online commerce, and to provide clarity in the law for trademark owners by prohibiting the bad-faith and abusive registration of distinctive marks as Internet domain names with the intent to profit from the goodwill associated with such marks--a practice commonly referred to as 'cybersquatting'." S.Rep. No. 106-140, at 4. In particular, Congress viewed the legal remedies available for victims of cybersquatting before the passage of the ACPA as "expensive and uncertain." HRRep No. 106-412, at 6. The Senate made clear its view on this point:
-- Sporty's Farm L.L.C., V. Sportsman's
Inc., 202 F.3d 489, 495-96 (2nd Cir. 2000)
The purpose of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) is to "protect consumers and American businesses ... by prohibiting the bad-faith and abusive registration of distinctive marks as Internet domain names with the intent to profit from the goodwill associated with such marks..." Sporty's Farm L.L.C. v. Sportman's Market, Inc., 202 F.3d 486, 496-99, (2d Cir.2000) (quoting S.Rep. No. 106-140, at 4).
-- Shields, v. Zuccarini, No. CIV. A. 00-494, 89 F.Supp.2d 634, 636 (EDPa March 27, 2000).
Courts in the Second Circuit consider (1) whether plaintiff's mark is distinctive or famous; (2) whether the defendant had a bad faith intent to profit from the use of the mark; and (3) whether the marks in issue are identical or confusingly similar. Sporty's Farm L.L.C. v. Sportman's Market, Inc., 202 F.3d 486496-99, (2d Cir.2000).
-- Shields, v. Zuccarini, No. CIV. A. 00-494, 89 F.Supp.2d 634, 638 (EDPa March 27, 2000).
Distinctive or famous
10.In most respects, sporty's meets the rigorous criteria
laid out in § 1125(c)(1), requiring both fame and distinctiveness
for protection under the FTDA. See Nabisco Brands, Inc., v. PF Brands,
Inc., 191 F.3d 208, 216 (2d Cir.1999). The mark (1) is sufficiently
(as we discuss in the text), (2) has been used by Sportsman's for an
period of time, (3) has had millions of dollars in advertising spent on
it, (4) is used nationwide, and (5) is traded in a wide variety of
channels. See 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(1)(A)-(E). Moreover, the record
does not indicate that anyone else besides Sportsman's uses sporty's,
the mark is, of course, registered with federal authorities. See id. at
---- Sporty's Farm L.L.C., V. Sportsman's Market, Inc., 202 F.3d 489, 497 (2nd Cir. 2000)
Under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(A)(ii)(I) and (II), we must first determine if "Joe Cartoon" is a "distinctive" or "famous" mark and therefore is entitled to protection under the ACPA. In Sporty's Farm, the Second Circuit applied the criteria laid out in 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(1) in making this determination, and we will do the same. We conclude that, for purposes of the preliminary injunction motion, "Joe Cartoon" is both distinctive and famous and therefore is entitled to protection.
The first criterion under § 1125(c) is "the degree of inherent or acquired distinctiveness of the mark." As far as we (or the parties) know, Shields runs the only "Joe Cartoon" operation in the nation and has done so for the past fifteen years. This factor suggests both the inherent and the acquired distinctiveness of the mark. Also, the name "Joe Cartoon" is, in our opinion, unique and colorful, despite the fact that "Joseph" was the ninth most popular name in America in the 1990 census.4 See Ron Word, "Land of Odd Names, from Cute to Desperate," The Star-Ledger (Newark), Jan. 19, 1997, at 44.
The second factor under § 1125(c) is "the duration and extent of use of the mark in connection with the goods or services with which the mark is used." Shields has used "Joe Cartoon" for the past fifteen years, and joecartoon.com for the past two and a half years, in connection with his animations and the sale of products featuring his drawings. This is long enough for us to find that "Joe Cartoon" has acquired some fame in the marketplace. [FN5] Shields's success with his mark is also evidenced in a recent New York Times page one story, which quoted him and cited Joe Cartoon, see Andrew Pollack, "Show Business Embraces Web, But Cautiously," The New York Times, Nov. 9, 1999, at A1, C6 (Pl.'s Ex. 20). This is further evidence of "Joe Cartoon' "s fame.
The third factor is "the duration and extent of advertising and publicity of the mark." Joe Cartoon t-shirts have been sold across the country since at least the early 1990's, and its products appear on the Website of at least one nationally known retail chain, Spencer Gifts. Shields has also advertised in an online humor magazine with a circulation of about 1.4 million. As the Joe Cartoon Website receives in excess of 700,000 visits per month, it has received wide publicity and advertising. According to Shields, word-of-mouth also generates considerable interest in the Joe Cartoon site.
The fourth factor is "the geographical extent of the trading area in which the mark is used." It seems beyond dispute that Shields trades nationwide in both real and virtual markets. Obviously, Joe Cartoon's site on the World Wide Web gives it a global reach.
The fifth factor is "the channels of trade for the goods and services with which the mark is used." Shields's cartoons and merchandise are marketed on the Internet, in gift shops, and at tourist venues. An Internet user searching for one of Shields's cartoons would have difficulty locating it without using the words "Joe Cartoon." As noted, "Joe Cartoon" products are distributed nationally through the Spencer Gifts Website, and the joecartoon.com site attracts almost ten million visitors per year.
The sixth factor is "the degree of recognition of the mark in the trading areas and channels of trade used by the marks' owner and the person against whom the injunction is sought." In contrast to the huge following Shields has won for his Joe Cartoon site, Zuccarini's very business existence depends upon his parasitic use of others' names, ranging from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jessica Rabbit to Sony Television to Star Wars.
Finally, the seventh factor is "the nature and extent of use of the same or similar marks by third parties." As we discussed above, neither we nor the parties are aware of any other Joe Cartoon.
Thus, in light of the above, we conclude that "Joe Cartoon" is both distinctive and famous. Under the ACPA, however, a mark is protected if it is distinctive or famous, see 15 U.S.C. § 1512(d)(1)(A)(ii)(I) and (II), and "Joe Cartoon" therefore need only be one or the other to be protected.
-- Shields v. Zuccarini, No. CIV. A. 00-494, 89 F.Supp.2d 634, 638-39 (EDPa March 27, 2000).
Distinctiveness refers to inherent qualities of a mark and is a completely different concept from fame. A mark may be distinctive before it has been used--when its fame is nonexistent. By the same token, even a famous mark may be so ordinary, or descriptive as to be notable for its lack of distinctiveness. See Nabisco, Inc. v. PF Brands, Inc., 191 F.3d 208, 215- 26 (2d Cir.1999). We have no doubt that sporty's, as used in connection with Sportsman's catalogue of merchandise and advertising, is inherently distinctive. Furthermore, Sportsman's filed an affidavit under 15 U.S.C. § 1065 that rendered its registration of the sporty's mark incontestable, which entitles Sportsman's "to a presumption that its registered trademark is inherently distinctive." Equine Technologies, Inc. v. Equitechnology, Inc., 68 F.3d 542, 545 (1st Cir.1995). We therefore conclude that, for the purposes of § 1125(d)(1)(A)(ii)(I), the sporty's mark is distinctive.
To establish that Porsche is entitled to protection under the ACPA, it must first be determined whether the Porsche mark is "famous" within the meaning of the ACPA, utilizing the criteria in 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(1).7 Sporty's Farm, 202 F.3d at 497, 497 n. 10. Porsche easily meets these criteria--the mark is sufficiently distinctive, has been used for an extended period of time, has had millions of dollars in advertising spent on it, has been utilized in goods and channels worldwide, is widely recognized throughout the world, and there appear to be no similar marks used by third parties. See Britton Decl. at 2-3; 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(1)(A-G). Further, the mark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Britton Decl.Ex. A; 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(1)(H). Thus, the Porsche mark is "famous" and is therefore entitled to the protection of the ACPA.
-- Porsche Cars North America, Inc., v. Spencer, No. Civ. S-00-471GEB PAN., 2000 WL 641209, 2 (E.D.Cal. May 18, 2000)
Identical or confusingly similar or dilutive
The next question is whether domain name sportys.com is "identical or confusingly similar to" the sporty's mark.11 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(A)(ii)(I). As we noted above, apostrophes cannot be used in domain names. See supra note 2. As a result, the secondary domain name in this case (sportys) is indistinguishable from the Sportsman's trademark (sporty's ). Cf. Brookfield Communications, Inc. v. West Coast Entertainment Corp., 174 F.3d 1036, 1055 (9th Cir.1999) (observing that the differences between the mark "MovieBuff" and the domain name "moviebuff.com" are "inconsequential in light of the fact that Web addresses are not caps- sensitive and that the '.com' top-level domain signifies the site's commercial nature"). We therefore conclude that, although the domain name sportys.com is not precisely identical to the sporty's mark, it is certainly "confusingly similar" to the protected mark under § 1125(d)(1)(A)(ii)(I). Cf. Wella Corp. v. Wella Graphics, Inc. 874 F.Supp. 54, 56 (E.D.N.Y.1994) (finding the new mark "Wello" confusingly similar to the trademark "Wella").
Under the ACPA, the suspect domain name must also, "in the case of a famous mark that is famous at the time of registration of the domain name", [FN9] be "identical or confusingly similar to or dilutive of that mark." 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(A)(ii)(II). Porsche asserts that it is well- established that "attempts by a cyberpirate to sell domain names that contain world-famous trademarks to either the trademark holder or to third persons constitute dilution per se." Pl.'s Mot. at 13. 15 U.S.C. § 1127 provides that "dilution" occurs where the capacity of the famous mark to distinguish its goods or services is lessened, regardless of the presence or absence of competition between the owner of the famous mark and other parties, or the likelihood of confusion, mistake or deception. See also Panavision Int'l, L.P. v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1326 (9th Cir.1998). Plaintiff asserts that a trademark is "not a monopoly," and is only a limited property right, Opp'n at 6-8 (citing New Kids on the Block v. News America Publishing, Inc., 971 F.2d 302, 306 (9th Cir.1992), among others) a proposition which is generally true in trademark law. See Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corp. v. Lenox Laboratories, Inc., 815 F.2d 500, 503 (8th Cir.1987) ("A trademark is not a monopoly on the use of a name or a phrase. Rather, the legal relevance of a trademark is to show the source, identity, sponsorship, or origin of the product."). However, dilution causes of action indeed tread very close to granting "rights in gross" in a trademark. Avery, 189 F.3d at 875. This apparent "monopoly" is acceptable because "[d]ilution is a cause of action invented and reserved for a select class of marks--those marks with such powerful consumer associations that even non-competing uses can impinge on their value." Id. ("We view the famousness prong of [dilution analysis] as reinstating the balance--by carefully limiting the class of trademarks eligible for dilution protection, Congress and state legislatures granted the most potent form of trademark protection in a manner designed to minimize undue impact on other uses," noting also that in the dilution context, likelihood of confusion is irrelevant) (citing Panavision, 141 F.3d at 1324).
Defendant's use of and trafficking in Porsche's trademark in the domain name PORSCHESOURCE.COM put Porsche's "name and reputation at his mercy," Panavision, 141 F.3d at 1327, by diminishing Porsche's ability to distinguish its goods or services. See, e.g. Minnesota Mining and Mfg. Co. v. Taylor, 21 F.Supp.2d 1003, (D.Minn.1998) (holding that the "Post-It" trademark was likely to be diluted by the use of and attempts to sell the domain names "post-it.com," "post-its.com," and "ipost-it.com"); cf. Porsche Cars North America v. Manny's Porshop, 972 F.Supp. 1128, 1132 (N.D.Ill.1997) (holding that the name "Manny's Porshop" has the likely effect of diluting the name "Porsche"). [FN10] Thus, Porsche's famous mark will likely be diluted by Defendant's registration and trafficking in the domain name PORSCHESOURCE.COM.
-- Porsche Cars North America, Inc., v. Spencer, No. Civ. S-00-471GEB PAN., 2000 WL 641209, 3 (E.D.Cal. May 18, 2000)
We next turn to the issue of whether Sporty's Farm acted with a "bad faith intent to profit" from the mark sporty's when it registered the domain name sportys.com. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(A)(i). The statute lists nine factors to assist courts in determining when a defendant has acted with a bad faith intent to profit from the use of a mark.12 But we are not limited to considering just the listed factors when making our determination of whether the statutory criterion has been met. The factors are, instead, expressly described as indicia that "may" be considered along with other facts. Id. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i).
We hold that there is more than enough evidence in the record below of "bad faith intent to profit" on the part of Sporty's Farm (as that term is defined in the statute), so that "no reasonable factfinder could return a verdict against" Sportsman's. Norville v. Staten Island Univ. Hosp., 196 F.3d 89, 95 (2d Cir.1999). First, it is clear that neither Sporty's Farm nor Omega had any intellectual property rights in sportys.com at the time Omega registered the domain name. See id. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(I). Sporty's Farm was not formed until nine months after the domain name was registered, and it did not begin operations or obtain the domain name from Omega until after this lawsuit was filed. Second, the domain name doesnot consist of the legal name of the party that registered it, Omega. See id. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(II). Moreover, although the domain name does include part of the name of Sporty's Farm, that entity did not exist at the time the domain name was registered.
The third factor, the prior use of the domain name in connection with the bona fide offering of any goods or services, also cuts against Sporty's Farm since it did not use the site until after this litigation began, undermining its claim that the offering of Christmas trees on the site was in good faith. See id. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(III). Further weighing in favor of a conclusion that Sporty's Farm had the requisite statutory bad faith intent, as a matter of law, are the following: (1) Sporty's Farm does not claim that its use of the domain name was "noncommercial" or a "fair use of the mark," see id. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(IV), (2) Omega sold the mark to Sporty's Farm under suspicious circumstances, see Sporty's Farm v. Sportsman's Market, No. 96CV0756 (D.Conn. Mar. 13, 1998), reprinted in Joint Appendix at A277 (describing the circumstances of the transfer of sportys.com); 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(VI), and, (3) as we discussed above, the sporty's mark is undoubtedly distinctive, see id. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(IX).
The most important grounds for our holding that Sporty's Farm acted with a bad faith intent, however, are the unique circumstances of this case, which do not fit neatly into the specific factors enumerated by Congress but may nevertheless be considered under the statute. We know from the record and from the district court's findings that Omega planned to enter into direct competition with Sportsman's in the pilot and aviation consumer market. As recipients of Sportsman's catalogs, Omega's owners, the Hollanders, were fully aware that sporty's was a very strong mark for consumers of those products. It cannot be doubted, as the court found below, that Omega registered sportys.com for the primary purpose of keeping Sportsman's from using that domain name. Several months later, and after this lawsuit was filed, Omega created another company in an unrelated business that received the name Sporty's Farm so that it could (1) use the sportys.com domain name in some commercial fashion, (2) keep the name away from Sportsman's, and (3) protect itself in the event that Sportsman's brought an infringement claim alleging that a "likelihood of confusion" had been created by Omega's version of cybersquatting. Finally, the explanation given for Sporty's Farm's desire to use the domain name, based on the existence of the dog Spotty, is more amusing than credible. Given these facts and the district court's grant of an equitable injunction under the FTDA, there is ample and overwhelming evidence that, as a matter of law, Sporty's Farm's acted with a "bad faith intent to profit" from the domain name sportys.com as those terms are used in the ACPA.13 See Luciano v. Olsten Corp., 110 F.3d 210, 214 (2d Cir.1997) (stating that, as a matter of law, judgment may be granted where "the evidence in favor of the movant is so overwhelming that 'reasonable and fair minded [persons] could not arrive at a verdict against [it].' " (quoting Cruz v. Local Union No. 3, 34 F.3d 1148, 1154 (2d Cir.1994) (alteration in original))).
PETA is also entitled to Summary Judgment under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(A). To succeed on Summary Judgment, Plaintiff must show that Defendant (1) has a bad faith intent to profit from using "PETA.ORG;" and (2) the "PETA.ORG" domain name is identical or confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, the distinctive and famous PETA Mark. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(A). The second element has been proved for reasons stated above. As to the first element, under the ACPA, there are nine factors a court must consider in making a determination of whether the Defendant had a bad faith intent. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B). Applying these factors, it appears that Doughney had the requisite bad faith intent.
First, Defendant possessed no intellectual property rights in "PETA.ORG" when he registered the domain name in 1995. Second, the "PETA.ORG" domain name is not the Defendant, Michael T. Doughney's legal name or any name that is otherwise used to identify the Defendant. Third, Defendant had not engaged in prior use of the "PETA.ORG" domain name in connection with the bona fide offering of any goods or services prior to registering "PETA.ORG." Fourth, Defendant used the PETA Mark in a commercial manner. Fifth, Defendant clearly intended to confuse, mislead and divert internet users into accessing his web site which contained information antithetical and therefore harmful to the goodwill represented by the PETA Mark. Sixth, on Doughney's "PETA.ORG" web site, Doughney made reference to seeing what PETA would offer him if PETA did not like his web site. Seventh, Defendant, when registering the domain name "PETA.ORG," falsely stated that "People Eating Tasty Animals" was a non-profit educational organization and that this web site did not infringe any trade mark. Eighth, Defendant has registered other internet domain names which are identical or similar to either marks or names of famous people or organizations he opposes. Ninth, the PETA Mark used in the "PETA.ORG" domain name is distinctive and famous and was so at the time Defendant registered this site in September 1995.
-- People For The Ethical
Of Animals, Inc., v. Doughney, No. CIV.A. 99-1336-A., 2000 WL 943353, 4
(E.D.Va. June 12, 2000)
In addition to meeting these prerequisites for entitlement to coverage under the ACPA, Porsche must also demonstrate a likelihood that Defendant acted with bad faith intent to profit from their mark by trafficking in the dilutive domain name. Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i) of the ACPA, whether a person has a "bad faith intent" described in the above section is to be determined by consideration of several factors as set forth in that statute.
The pivotal question is whether Mr. Wick "has a bad faith intent to profit" from his use of the mark. The ACPA provides assistance with this determination, stating nine factors for courts to consider in determining whether a defendant has acted with a bad faith intent to profit from the use of a mark:
(I) the trademark or other intellectual property rights of the person, if any, in the domain name;
(II) the extent to which the domain name consists of the legal name of the person or a name that is otherwise commonly used to identify that person;
(III) the person's prior use, if any, of the domain name in connection with the bona fide offering of any goods or services;
(IV) the person's bona fide noncommercial or fair use of the mark in a site accessible under the domain name;
(V) the person's intent to divert consumers from the mark owner's online location to a site accessible under the domain name that could harm the goodwill represented by the mark, either for commercial gain or with the intent to tarnish or disparage the mark, by creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the site;
(VI) the person's offer to transfer, sell, or otherwise assign the domain name to the mark owner or any third party for financial gain without having used, or having an intent to use, the domain name in the bona fide offering of any goods or services, or the person's prior conduct indicating a pattern of such conduct;
(VII) the person's provision of material and misleading false contact information when applying for the registration of the domain name, the person's intentional failure to maintain accurate contact information, or the person's prior conduct indicating a pattern of such conduct;
(VIII) the person's registration or acquisition of multiple domain names which the person knows are identical or confusingly similar to marks of others that are distinctive at the time of registration of such domain names, or dilutive of famous marks of others that are famous at the time of registration of such domain names, without regard to the goods or services of the parties; and
(IX) the extent to which the mark incorporated in the person's domain name registration is or is not distinctive and famous within the meaning of subsection (c)(1) of this section.
A. I'm not one to sue somebody, and I--this was my way of messing with them.
Q. Were you going to put up web sites with those domain names?
Q. And what were you going to put on those web sites?
A. Parody's, jokes.
. . . . .
A.... I got to thinking, Well, who else in corporate America can I have fun with. And I figured, well, hey, you know, I got the executives pissed off as a result of me because of the names I own regarding their corporation. I can fool with them where they recreate. Well, who are they going to get to represent them? So I started getting into targeting www.martindale.com, large law firms.
Q. Did you intend to set up parody sites for the law firms as well?
A. Couldn't wait.
-- Morrison & Foerster LLP, v. Brian Wick and
Distribution Systems, Inc., No. CIV.A.00-B-465., 94 F.Supp.2d 1125,
(D.Co. April 19, 2000).
Our final inquiry under the ACPA is whether Zuccarini acted with a bad faith intent to profit from Shields's distinctive and famous mark. Section 1125(d)(1)(B)(i) provides a nonexhaustive list of nine factors for us to consider when making this determination, and § 1125(d)(1)(B)(ii) provides a safe harbor for Zuccarini if he can show that he reasonably believed that his use of the domain names was fair and lawful.
During his deposition and before us, Zuccarini admitted that he registered the variations on "Joe Cartoon," as well as thousands of other domain names, because they are confusingly similar to others' famous marks or personal names--and thus are likely misspellings of these names--in an effort to divert Internet traffic to his sites. See Pl.'s Ex. 12, at 42-44, 67-69. For example, he has registered obvious misspellings of celebrities' names, such as gwenythpaltrow.com, rikymartin.com, and britineyspears.com. He also has registered variations on popular product and website names, like sportillustrated.com, mountianbikes.com, and msnchatrooms.com. This conduct is compelling evidence of his bad faith. See 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(V) and (VII).
Also, Zuccarini conducts no bona fide business and offers no goods or services that have anything to do with "Joe Cartoon" or with any of the other sites he has registered, see 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(III). He has no trademark or intellectual property rights in any form of "Joe Cartoon," see 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(I), and "Joe Cartoon" is not even close to his personal name, see 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(II). Finally, the mark is distinctive and famous, as discussed supra. See 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(IX).
Thus, there is overwhelming evidence that Zuccarini acted with a bad-faith intent to profit when he registered these five domain names. He claims, however, that he is entitled to protection under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(ii), because he reasonably believed that his use was lawful and proper.
-- Virtual Works, Inc., v. Network Solutions, Inc., Volkswagen Of America, Inc., No. Civ.A. 99-1289-A. 106 F.Supp.2d 845, 847 (E.D. Va Feb. 24, 2000).
First, the Court should consider the "trademark or other intellectual property rights of the person, if any, in the domain name." 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(I). Here, Defendant has no such rights in the trademark "Porsche." Defendant asserts, however, that "from a common sense perspective," he "interpreted" the availability of PORSCHESOURCE.COM for registration and the fact that many other domain names contained the word "porsche" to mean that PORSCHESOURCE.COM was a "valid name for [him] to register." Spencer Decl. ¶ 3. However, "registration of a domain name in no way trumps federal trademark law; registration does not itself confer any trademark rights on the registrant." OBH, 86 F.Supp.2d at 180. Nor is the mere fact that a domain name is available instructive. But Defendant asserts he visited websites such as "register.com" in examining domain names like PORSCHESOURCE.COM, which confirmed his general understanding that it is permissible to "register domain names containing auto manufacturer's names so long as one did not block a trademark holder from registering their trademark." Spencer Decl. ¶ 17. However, the "register.com" website specifically states "Register.com makes no representations as to whether or not these names infringe or violate any trademark or intellectual property rights." Register.com--Domain Name Registration Services, (last visited May 5, 2000) <http:// www.register.com/whois.cgi>. Thus this website's disclaimer concerning possible trademark infringement belies Defendant's argument that registration of these domain names was permissible under the law.
Next, regarding the extent to which the domain name consists of the legal name of Defendants or a name otherwise used to refer to him, it is self-evident that PORSCHESOURCE.COM fits neither of these criteria. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(II). Further, Defendant has shown no prior use of the domain name in connection with the "bona fide offering of any goods or services." 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(B)(i)(III). Although Defendant contends that he "developed the concept of PORSCHESOURCE.COM as a potential website address for Niello Porsche," a customer of his website design business, his actions belie this statement. [FN12] Defendant's attempt to auction off PORSCHESOURCE.COM to the highest bidder is inconsistent with his indication that he sought only to benefit Niello Porsche. The evidence suggests instead that he sought to benefit himself. [FN13] See Compl.Ex. A ("Listed are the domains on which we currently would consider offers."). Defendant also states that his intent to provide the domain name to Niello Porsche of Sacramento is supported by the fact that the domain name registration "reflects not only my true address, but that of Niello Porsche as well." Spencer Decl. ¶ 9 (referencing the Court to Exhibit B of plaintiff's complaint). However, the record does not support this assertion--Niello Porsche is not indicated on any document in Exhibit B of the complaint.
Directing my attention to the fourth factor, Mr. Wick argues that he uses the domain names merely to display "parody" web pages, making fun of Morrison & Foerster and the practice of law in general. He contends this is a bona fide noncommercial use of the mark. However, I conclude that use of Morrison & Foerster's trademark in this domain name would confuse the public and disparage the firm. I further conclude that this is not bona fide parody. See, e.g., Cardtoons, L.C. v. Major League Baseball Players Ass'n, 95 F.3d 959, 970 (10th Cir.1996) ("in the case of a good trademark parody, there is little likelihood of confusion, since the humor lies in the difference between the original and the parody."); OBH, Inc. v. Spotlight Magazine, Inc., 86 F.Supp.2d 176, 191 (W.D.N.Y.2000) ("Thus, even if users will easily recognize, upon reaching defendants' web site, that it is only a parody, the use of plaintiffs' mark as the site's domain name ... creates initial interest confusion"). I discuss parody and its First Amendment implications infra.
The fifth factor is clearly applicable here. Mr. Wick's use of
& Foerster's mark in his domain names demonstrates his intent to
customers from Morrison & Foerster's online location. As stated by
the Second Circuit in Sporty's, the most common method of locating an
domain name is simply to type in the company name or logo with the
Sporty's, 202 F.3d at 493. Any user attempting to find Morrison &
web site in this manner, entering www.morrisonandfoerster.com or
would instead find Mr. Wick's web sites rather than the official
& Foerster web site at www.mofo.com. Also, I conclude that if the
believed these to be Morrison & Foerster's sites, Mr. Wick's web
would harm the goodwill represented by Morrison & Foerster's mark.
As noted above, Mr. Wick's sites contain many hyper-links to
racist, and offensive domain names. Mr. Wick's sites refer to attorneys
as parasites and are derogatory of the legal profession. Although some
might profess to agree with Mr. Wick, the likelihood of confusion is
Because Mr. Wick has placed his web sites at domain names identical or
confusingly similar to Morrison & Foerster's mark, a user may
about Morrison & Foerster's affiliation with the sites or
of the sites.
-- Morrison & Foerster LLP, v. Brian Wick and American Distribution Systems, Inc., No. CIV.A.00-B-465., 94 F.Supp.2d 1125, 1132 (D.Co. April 19, 2000).
Intent to Sell
The sixth bad faith factor appears directly on point--it considers the "person's offer to transfer, sell, or otherwise assign the domain name to the mark owner or any third party for financial gain without having used, or having an intent to use, the domain name in the bona fide offering of goods or services, or the person's prior conduct indicating a pattern of such conduct." Here, Defendant did in fact offer to "sell" the domain name to the "mark owner or any third party for financial gain without having used, or having an intent to use, the domain name in the bona fide offering of any goods or services." 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(VI). Although Defendant asserts it was his intent to sell "PORSCHESOURCE.COM" to "one of his regular customers, Niello Porsche of Sacramento," see Opp'n at 2, as previously discussed, this statement is inconsistent with the other facts in the record. Moreover, Defendant cites no authority for the proposition that simply because he did not offer to sell the domain name to Porsche specifically, he is somehow exempt from the strictures of the ACPA. No legitimate use of the domain name was shown, and Defendant's intent to profit financially is clear.
-- Porsche Cars North America, Inc., v. Spencer, No.
S-00-471GEB PAN., 2000 WL 641209, 5 (E.D.Cal. May 18, 2000)
The sixth factor looks to Mr. Wick's offer to transfer or sell the domain name to the mark owner or to any third party for financial gain. In support of this factor, Morrison & Foerster points to Mr. Wick's use of the domain name www.NameIsForSale.com, in registering the web sites in question. Use of this name gives rise to reasonable inference of intent to sell the domain names for a profit. Further, the ww w.NameIsForSale.com homepage proudly states, "Name the property, product or service you want to donate, sell, buy, or rent. Free matching service for donators, sellers, buyers and renters." (emphasis in original). Although Mr. Wick testified that he never intended to use these web sites for profit (March 30, 2000 Trans at p. 93), his testimony is not credible in light of the nature of these webpages. I find it more likely than not that, as Mr. Wick himself admits, he had not yet had an opportunity to pursue financial gain from these domain names because he was too busy litigating these and similar matters. (March 30, 2000 Trans. at p. 96).
The seventh factor directs my attention to Mr. Wick's provision of material and misleading false contact information when applying for the registration of these domain names. Morrison & Foerster presented evidence at the March 30, 2000 trial that Mr. Wick failed to comply with www.Register.com 's rules for domain name registration. (Tr. Exh. 31, Register.com Registration Agreement). I view this failure as evidence of bad faith. Register.com lists several pieces of information that a subscriber is required to submit which, among other things, includes the user's name and postal address. In registering the at-issue domain names, Mr. Wick failed to provide his full name and his postal address. Instead, he provided a post office box and gave his e-mail address. (Tr. Exhs.13, 15, 16, 25). Further evidence of his intent to supply false contact information is that on March 15, 2000, after the Temporary Restraining Order was issued, Mr. Wick changed the contact name in his Register.com file. Listed as a contact had been, "ADSI c/o Morri, Son & Foerster." On March 15, Mr. Wick changed this to "DefaultData.com."
-- Morrison & Foerster LLP, v. Brian Wick and American Distribution Systems, Inc., No. CIV.A.00-B-465., 94 F.Supp.2d 1125, 1132 (D.Co. April 19, 2000).
The eighth factor allows me to consider Mr. Wick's registration and acquisition of other domain names which he knows are identical or confusingly similar to marks of others that are distinctive at the time of his registration. Mr. Wick has registered the names of over ninety law firms, including: www.HollandandHart.com, www.McKennaandCuneo.com, www.BakerandHostetler.com, www.HallandEvans.com. (Tr. Exh. 41, pp. 1- 2). All of these web sites are similar in appearance. Some reference "Parasites" and state "no soul ... no conscience ... no spine ... NO PROBLEM!!!" (Tr. Exh. 41, p. 3). Others claim, "We bend over for you ... because you bend over for us! As long as someone is bending over ... then someone is getting paid! Make sure you are bending over the right way! We tell you what you want to hear ... because you pay us! Greed is good!" (Exh. 41, p. 7). Needless to say, all of these web sites employ domain names which Mr. Wick knows are identical or confusingly similar to names of other law firms. And, as with Morrison & Foerster, these names and/or trademarks are distinctive and/or famous and, therefore, protected by the ACPA.
Morrison & Foerster LLP, v. Brian Wick and American Distribution Systems, Inc., No. CIV.A.00-B-465., 94 F.Supp.2d 1125, 1132-33 (D.Co. April 19, 2000).
The Act permits a court to "order the forfeiture or cancellation of the domain name or the transfer of the domain name to the owner of the mark," § 1125(d)(1)(C) for any "domain name [ ] registered before, on, or after the date of the enactment of [the] Act," Pub.L. No. 106-113, § 3010. That is precisely what the district court did here, albeit under the pre-existing law, when it directed a) Omega and Sporty's Farm to release their interest in sportys.com and to transfer the name to Sportsman's, and b) permanently enjoined those entities from taking any action to prevent and/or hinder Sportsman's from obtaining the domain name. That relief remains appropriate under the ACPA. We therefore affirm the district court's grant of injunctive relief.
--Sporty's Farm L.L.C., V. Sportsman's Market, Inc., 202
489, 499 (2nd Cir. 2000)
Domain Names Pre-Act
Under the ACPA, damages are unavailable to Sportsman's since sportys.com was registered and used by Sporty's Farm prior to the passage of the new law.
-- --Sporty's Farm L.L.C., V. Sportsman's Market, Inc.,
F.3d 489, 499 (2nd Cir. 2000)
However, during the August 28 telephone conference, Bihari's attorney claimed that use of "Bihari Interiors" in the metatags violates the ACPA. Neither Bihari's attorney, nor this Court, has been able to find a single case applying the ACPA to metatags. Although no court has expressly stated that the ACPA does not apply to metatags, the plain meaning of the statute and its legislative history make this conclusion apparent. See 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(A)(ii) (ACPA provides an action against one who "registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name ....") (emphasis added); Mattel, Inc. v. Internet Dimensions Inc., 99 Civ. 10066, 2000 WL 973745 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 13, 2000) (Congress's purpose in adopting the ACPA was to "protect consumers and American businesses ... by prohibiting the bad-faith and abusive registration of distinctive marks as Internet domain names ....") (quoting S .Rep. No. 106-140, at 4 (1999)) (emphasis added). Therefore, the ACPA is no longer a basis for preliminary injunctive relief as Gross has voluntarily relinquished the Bihari domain name.
-- Bihari v. Gross, No. OO Civ. 1664 (SAS), 6 (SDNY Sept
Doughney contends there is no infringement in that his web site was a parody. A parody exists when two antithetical ideas appear at the same time. In this instance, an internet user would not realize that they were not on an official PETA web site until after they had used PETA's Mark to access the web page "www.peta.org." Only then would they find Doughney's People Eating Tasty Animals. Doughney knew he was causing confusion by use of the Mark and admitted that it was "possible" that some internet users would be confused when they activated "PETA.ORG" and found the "People Eating Tasty Animals" web site. He also admitted that "many people" would initially assume that they were accessing an authentic PETA web site at "www.peta.org." Only after arriving at the "PETA.ORG" web site could the web site browser determine that this was not a web site owned, controlled or sponsored by PETA. Therefore, the two images: (1) the famous PETA name and (2) the "People Eating Tasty Animals" web site was not a parody because not simultaneous.
-- Morrison & Foerster LLP, v. Brian Wick and American Distribution Systems, Inc., No. CIV.A.00-B-465., 94 F.Supp.2d 1125, 1134-35 (D.Co. April 19, 2000).
Trademark Misuse Defense
The Defendant's affirmative defense of trademark misuse is inapplicable. In 1998, PETA registered the somain names "ringlingbrothers.com," "voguemagazine.com," and "pg.info." Each web site contained messages from PETA criticizing Ringling Bros .-Barnum & Bailey Combined, Vogue Magazine and Procter & Gamble Company for mistreatment of animals. In each instance, "ringlingbrothers," "voguemagazine" and "pginfo" were not and are not registered trademarks. PETA received complaints from Conde Nast Publications that owns Vogue Magazine and from the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows regarding PETA's web sites bearing their names. In each case, PETA voluntarily and immediately assigned the domain names to the complaining party. At no time did PETA receive any correspondence of any kind from Procter & Gamble Company complaining about PETA's registration and use of the internet domain name "pginfo.net." Doughney had no relation to any of these web sites and suffered no damages from PETA's operation of any of these web sites.
Defendant's affirmative defense is based in part on a constitutional argument. Doughney contends that this case is an attempt to quash his First Amendment rights to express disagreement with their organization. PETA does not seek to keep Doughney from criticizing PETA. They ask that Doughney not use their mark. When Network Solutions, Inc. placed "PETA.ORG" on "hold" status, Doughney transferred the entire web page to one of his other internet sites, "mtd.com/tasty." PETA has not complained about that web site and even concedes that Doughney has a right to criticize PETA or any organization.
Moreover, because Mr. Wick's domain names merely incorporate Morrison & Foerster's trademark, they do not constitute a protectable, communicative message. See id. at 197 ("Whether a particular domain name is entitled to protection under the First Amendment depends on the extent of its communicative message.") (citing Name.Space, Inc. v. Network Solutions, Inc., 202 F.3d 573, (2d Cir.2000)). Mr. Wick chose to use Morrison & Foerster's mark to deceive Internet users into believing they were accessing Morrison & Foerster's web site. Such use of the mark is not protected by the First Amendment. OBH, 86 F.Supp.2d at 197-198 ("Use of another's trademark is entitled to First Amendment protection only when the use of that mark is part of a communicative message, not when it is used merely to identify the source of a product.") (citing Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Bucci, 1997 WL 133313 (S.D.N.Y.1997)). Mr. Wick's use of Morrison & Foerster's mark as the domain name for his web sites is more analogous to source identification than to a communicative message. See OBH, 86 F.Supp.2d at 198. The domain names identify the web sites as being those of Morrison & Foerster. Mr. Wick offers no reason why I should determine that his domain names constitute communicative messages rather than source identifiers. I agree with the Southern District of New York judge who stated:
Finally, Mr. Wick could simply display the content of his web pages in a different location. As he testified, he has many domain names and, thus, many places to display his message. (March 30, 2000 Trans. p. 99). Shields v. Zuccarini, 89 F.Supp.2d 634, 640-41 (E.D.Pa.2000) ("Nor can he argue that such an order would violate his First Amendment right to free speech, as he has plenty of other outlets for his protest (i.e., just one of the three thousand domain names he owns would provide a sufficient forum).").
For these reasons, I do not credit Mr. Wick's First Amendment defense of his use of Morrison & Foerster's mark in his domain names.
-- Morrison &
v. Brian Wick and American Distribution Systems, Inc., No.
94 F.Supp.2d 1125, 1135 (D.Co. April 19, 2000).
Fair Use Defense
Even if the Gross websites cause consumer confusion, use of the "Bihari Interiors" mark in the metatags is protected as a fair use. The Lanham Act codified a common law fair use defense in 15 U.S.C. § 1115(b)(4). The fair use doctrine applies to the Internet as readily as to the print media. See Radio Channel Networks, Inc. v. Broadcast.Com, Inc., 98 Civ. 4799, 1999 WL 124455, at *5- *6 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 8, 1999) (permitting defendant's fair use of the term "The Radio Channel" on its website, which transmits broadcasts over the Internet, even though plaintiff had registered the service mark "The Radio Channel").
"Fair use is established when the challenged term is a use, otherwise than as a mark, ... of a term or device which is descriptive of and used fairly and in good faith only to describe the goods or services of such party...." 15 U.S.C. § 1115(b)(4). In other words, "fair use permits others to use a protected mark to describe aspects of their own goods." Car-Freshner Corp. v. S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 70 F.3d 267, 270 (2d Cir.1995). It is not necessary that the plaintiff's mark be classified as "descriptive" to benefit from the fair use defense. See id. at 269-270. Instead, the central considerations are whether the defendant has used the mark (1) in its descriptive sense, and (2) in good faith. See id.
He claims, however, that he is entitled to protection under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(ii), because he reasonably believed that his use was lawful and proper. He argues that his only intent was to protest the graphic and gruesome depictions of brutality to animals in Shields's cartoons. We reject this argument, for several reasons.
First, Zuccarini used his "Joe Cartoon" websites for purely commercial purposes before Shields filed this action. We find it incredible that Zuccarini intended to use the domain names for political speech all along, yet only happened to get around to changing the websites' content after Shields sued him for thousands of dollars and injunctive relief in federal court.
Second, the vast majority of Zuccarini's many websites are not political fora but are merely vehicles for him to make money. Indeed, most of his sites suggest that they lead to sexually explicit material, even though not all do. See, e.g., www.victoriasecretsmodel.com. It strains credulity to believe that he uses 99.9% of his domain names for profit but reserves his Joe Cartoon domains for fair and lawful political speech.
Third, while some may find Shields's cartoons in poor taste, they are hardly realistic and graphic. In fact, some of the images are rather cute. See, e.g., the frog in "Frog Blender" or the lemmings competing for diving medals in "Live and Let Dive". In any event, this is tame stuff compared with the regular catastrophes that befall Wile E. Coyote.
We thus find it hard to believe, in light of all of the graphic, violent, and far more troubling images present in our popular culture, that Shields's cartoons so shocked and appalled Zuccarini that he was sincerely compelled to launch a political protest. He admitted to us that he did not, for example, protest the frog apocalypse in Magnolia. He conceded that he has never before complained about animals' depictions to anyone. He has never belonged to an organization that champions animal rights. To the contrary, he maintains domain names such as www.sexwithanimal.com and www.girlwithanimals.com.
In short, we conclude that Zuccarini's claim of good faith and fair use is a spurious explanation cooked up purely for this suit, and we reject it out of hand. We therefore find that Shields is likely to prevail on the merits of his ACPA claim.
-- Shields, v. Zuccarini, No. CIV. A. 00-494, 89 F.Supp.2d 634, 640-41 (EDPa March 27, 2000).
For consumers to buy things or gather information on the Internet, they need an easy way to find particular companies or brand names. The most common method of locating an unknown domain name is simply to type in the company name or logo with the suffix .com. [FN3] If this proves unsuccessful, then Internet users turn to a device called a search engine. [FN4] A search engine will find all web pages on the Internet with a particular word or phrase. Given the current state of search engine technology, that search will often produce a list of hundreds of web sites through which the user must sort in order to find what he or she is looking for. As a result, companies strongly prefer that their domain name be comprised of the company or brand trademark and the suffix .com. See HRRep No. 106-412, at 5 (1999).
When searching for information on the Internet, an individual user may choose one of two search techniques. The first involves conducting a specific domain name [FN2] search, in which the user types the company name or logo followed by the suffix ".com". A news network such as CNN, for example, has the website "cnn.com". However, companies will often choose as a domain name one that does not precisely reflect their company name. For instance, the domain name for the New York Times is "nytimes.com". If an Internet user were to type the domain name "newyorktimes.com", the user would arrive at a site unaffiliated with the New York Times but devoted to readers' comments about the New York Times.
-- Bihari v. Gross, No. OO Civ. 1664
1 (SDNY Sept 25, 2000) .
3.Nothing prevents an American commercial entity from seeking to use the .org or .us top level domains, but, especially in the United States, it has become customary for commercial web pages to use .com.
Until recently, domain names with the .com top level domain could only be obtained from Network Solutions, Inc. ("NSI"). Now other registrars may also assign them. But all these registrars grant such names primarily on a first- come, first-served basis upon payment of a small registration fee. They do not generally inquire into whether a given domain name request matches a trademark held by someone other than the person requesting the name. See id.
-- Sporty's Farm L.L.C., V. Sportsman's Market, Inc.,
F.3d 489, 493 (2nd Cir. 2000)
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