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Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Unauthorized internet reseller of plaintiff’s products is not guilty of trademark infringement, and does not cause actionable initial interest confusion, by using plaintiff’s trademarks in meta tags of website at which plaintiff’s and its competitors’ products are sold, and in...

Trademark - Parody - Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions - Updated October 8, 2008

2001 WL 1035140 (S.D.N.Y. September 19, 2001)

In this domain name dispute, Court grants Mattel, the holder of numerous trademarks in and including the word "Barbie," summary judgment, holding that defendant violated the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA") by registering the domain names "barbiesbeachwear.com" and "barbiesclothing.com," causing those who accessed such domains to view a commercial web site selling women's apparel operated by the defendant, and effectuating a single $10 sale of merchandise to an investigator hired by plaintiff who accessed one of the domains in question. The court ordered defendant to relinquish the domain names at issue, and to pay Mattel $2000 in damages. The court declined to award Mattel its attorneys' fees.

263 F.3d 359, No. 00-1918 (4th Cir., August 23, 2001)

The Fourth Circuit, affirming the decision of the district court below, held that defendant was guilty of service mark infringement and unfair competition, and had violated the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA"), as a result of his creation and operation of a web site at the domain www.peta.org, which contained plaintiff's federally registered service mark "peta." In reaching this conclusion, the Fourth Circuit rejected defendant's defense that his site, titled "People Eating Tasty Animals," was a parody of plaintiff's "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" organization because the domain name containing plaintiff's mark did not appear simultaneously with that aspect of the web site containing the parody of plaintiff's organization.

No. 07-4095 (10th Cir., May 29, 2008)

Affirming the decision of the district court below, the Tenth Circuit dismisses trademark infringement, unfair competition and cybersquatting claims brought by plaintiff Utah Lighthouse Ministry as a result of defendant Allen Wyatt’s operation of a non-commercial website at domains containing the names of both plaintiff and its principals, which website in turn linked to articles criticizing plaintiff’s principals found on defendant Fair’s website.  Plaintiff was created to criticize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Fair is an organization that responds to criticisms of that Church.  Wyatt’s website was designed to look like that of the plaintiff, incorporating elements and content found thereon with slight alterations, and contained no disclaimer as to the site’s affiliation with the plaintiff. 

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s Lanham Act trademark infringement and unfair competition claims on the grounds that plaintiff had failed to establish that defendant had used its trademark in commerce.  In reaching this result, the Court held that links from Wyatt’s website to that of Fair, at which books were offered for sale, were too attenuated to constitute a commercial use because the links took the user to pages of that site containing criticism of plaintiff, and not to those pages of the site at which books were offered for sale.  The Court further held that the use of plaintiff’s trademark in the operation of a site that diverted consumers from plaintiff’s commercial site to a non-commercial site was not a commercial use sufficient to sustain a Lanham Act claim.  In reaching this result, the Court refused to follow a contrary decision of the Fourth Circuit. 

The Tenth Circuit also dismissed plaintiff’s trademark infringement claim on the ground that plaintiff failed to establish the requisite likelihood of consumer confusion arising out of defendant Wyatt’s operation of his site.  The Court relied both on its analysis of the traditional likelihood of confusion factors, as well as its determination that defendant’s site was a successful parody of that of the plaintiff.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit dismissed plaintiff’s cybersquatting claim, advanced under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”), on the ground that the defendants lacked the requisite bad faith intent to profit from their use of plaintiff’s mark, given their site was non-commercial, and intended to criticize plaintiff.   The Tenth Circuit held that such claim also failed because defendant Wyatt fell within the protection of the ACPA’s safe-harbor provision, which precludes a finding of bad faith intent to profit if ‘the court determines that the [defendant] believed and had reasonable grounds to believe that the use of the domain name was a fair use or otherwise lawful.’

Quick Hits

Pinehurst, Inc. v. Brian Wick, et al.
256 F. Supp. 2d 424 (M.D. N.C., 2003).

Finding that defendant cybersquatters violated both the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”) and the Federal Trademark Dilution Act (“FTDA”), the court directed defendants to transfer to plaintiff domain names containing plaintiff’s famous “Pinehurst” mark, enjoined defendants from further using “Pinehurst” in a domain name, and awarded plaintiff both statutory damages in the amount of $100,000 and attorneys fees.   Plaintiff is the owner of the world famous Pinehurst Golf Resort.  The court found that defendants had registered the domain names in question – pinehurstresort.com and pinehurstresorts.com - with a bad faith intent to profit therefrom because, among other things, they had registered over 8000 domain names, many of which contained the trademarks of well-known corporations, golf courses or law firms, had offered, in settlement, to transfer the domain names at issue to plaintiff in exchange for a ‘contribution’ to their legal expenses and had registered additional ‘typo’ domains after the commencement of this suit.  Such a finding also rested on defendants’ stated purpose in registering these and other domains, which was to “mess” with “corporate America,” as well as on the fact that the domains at issue had been registered by an entity named NameIsForSale.com 

In reaching this result, the court rejected defendants’ claim that their conduct was a permissible ‘parody’ of plaintiff’s mark.  Such a defense failed, in part, because the content of defendants’ site – on which was located images of a miniature golf course and a trailer park – was not seen until after the user had already made a decision to enter the site based on the domain names at issue, which did not parody plaintiff or its golf course.  Said the court “A parody must convey two simultaneous and contradictory messages, that it is the original but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody. … Looking at Defendants’ domain names alone, there is no suggestion of a parody. … The domain names convey the first message, that it is the original, but the second message, that it is ‘not the original and that it is a parody, is discovered only by accessing the website and reading through the website’s content.”

The court further held that defendant had violated the FTDA by virtue of having registered the domain names in question, and thereby having prevented plaintiff from using them in commerce.  This reduced the selling power of plaintiff’s famous
”Pinehurst” mark, thereby diluting it.  Said the court:  “Because of the unique nature of domain names in electronic commerce and the resulting economic harm when marks are registered as domain names by cyberpirates, Defendants’ use of Plaintiff’s service marks in their Pinehurst domain names constitutes dilution.”

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