Q3 2009 Quick Links, Part 2

By Eric Goldman

Trademark

* Venkat: Twitter makes the dictionary.

* Federal Circuit says Hotels.com is generic.

* Steve Madden sues eBay for trademark infringement. Marty’s coverage. Justia page. I found the fifth cause of action, “trademark delusion,” a surprisingly apt malapropism.

* Yahoo! Inc. v. Ashantiplc Limited. Yahoo is suing over Flicker.com.

* Lots of action involving Mary Kay.

- Mary Kay sued Yahoo for its shortcuts being triggered by the Mary Kay trademark. The Justia page.

- Mary Kay brought another lawsuit to shut down aftermarket resales.

- The Mary Kay v. Weber case has reached a conclusion. See my initial blog post on the case. In March, Mary Kay won a jury verdict against Weber. In August, the district court judge denied Weber post-trial relief. Mary Kay v. Weber, 2009 WL 2569070 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 14, 2009). On Sept. 29, the judge awarded Mary Kay $1.1M, computed as “the defendants’ pre-tax net profit for the years 2005 through 2008.”

* I hate greeting card IP cases…especially when they involve Paris Hilton. See the Ninth Circuit opinion.

* Rebecca on a complicated trademark and false advertising case involving cell phone reflashing.

* Third Educ. Group, Inc. v. Phelps, 2009 WL 2029758 (E.D. Wis. July 10, 2009). An oblique nod to a co-blogging situation:

It is possible to have a situation in which a voluntary association develops out of a preexisting creation of an individual (take, for example, a blog created, named, and operated entirely by a single individual that then expands into a voluntary association as it includes more collaborative members but continues to utilize the original name). Under such circumstances, the founding individual might register the name of the voluntary association as a trademark solely in his own name and then license it to the voluntary association because he has used the trademark separate from the voluntary association. However, that did not occur here.

* CollegeSource, Inc. v. AcademyOne, Inc., 2009 WL 2705426 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2009): “Plaintiff argues for personal jurisdiction on the grounds that Defendant purchased two of Plaintiff’s trademarks from internet search engines, so that those engines would display Defendant’s advertisements when Plaintiff’s word marks were searched….Defendant’s uncontroverted affidavit avers that its Adwords were selected by the search engines and were purchased before Defendant knew Plaintiff was located in California.…Accordingly, even if Defendant intentionally infringed Plaintiff’s marks, there is no showing that act was “expressly aimed at the forum state” or that it caused “harm that the defendant knows is likely to be suffered in the forum state.””

* GMA Accessories, Inc. v. BOP, 2009 WL 2634771 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 25, 2009). A really interesting and confusing lawsuit that says (I think) that electronic usage of third party trademarks does not qualify as a use in commerce and may not constitute contributory trademark infringement, with obvious implications for the search engine keyword advertising cases:

Electric Wonderland’s second alleged meritorious defense is that it did not use the CHARLOTTE or CHARLOTTE SOLNICKI marks….Electric Wonderland’s President described its business as follows:

Electric Wonderland brokers and/or processes orders from wholesale purchasers for fulfillment by clients of Electric Wonderland. Electric Wonderland does not directly sell its clients [sic] products, does not fulfill orders, does not acquire or maintain any inventory for sale, and does not purchase products from its clients for resale. Electric Wonderland does receive commissions on sales it brokers….

According to the Flack Declaration, these were the services Electric Wonderland provided to Charlotte Solnicki. (Flack Decl. P 3.) “Electric Wonderland did not directly sell Charlotte Solnicki products, did not fulfill orders, did not acquire or maintain any inventory of such products for sale, and did not purchase such products from Charlotte Solnicki for resale.” (Flack Decl. P 3.) If this were the extent of Electric Wonderland’s role, a fact-finder could find that Electric Wonderland did not “use” the CHARLOTTE or CHARLOTTE SOLNICKI marks, because it did not place the marks on any goods. Likewise, a reasonable fact-finder could determine that Electric Wonderland never used the marks to sell or advertise any of the services Electric Wonderland rendered. Thus, Electric Wonderland would not be liable for direct trademark infringement.

…Electric Wonderland’s president claims that “[a]t no time while Charlotte Solnicki was a client of Electric Wonderland was Electric Wonderland aware of GMA’s ‘Charlotte’ products nor of any possibility that the Charlotte Solnicki products were potentially infringing any third party’s trademark rights.” (Flack Decl. P 5.) If true, a reasonable fact-finder could find that Electric Wonderland neither knew, nor had reason to know of the alleged infringement during the period in question.

In addition, the Second Circuit has not decided whether contributory infringement applies to entities like Electric Wonderland, which provide services instead of products….Thus, Electric Wonderland, as a matter of law, may have a complete defense to contributory infringement liability, a matter which this Court need not decide at this juncture.

* Dan Burk and Brett McDonnell, Trademarks and the Boundaries of the Firm. Interesting discussion (among other things) on how an entrepreneur’s/employee’s personal reputation and corporate reputation can be interlinked.

Domain Names

* The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defense win in the domain name case of Southern Grouts & Mortars v. 3M, 2009 WL 2182605 (11th Cir. July 23, 2009). See my initial blog post on the case.

* John Levine: What are TLDs Good For? Bringing to mind the famous Edwin Starr song (I think the answer is the same!).

* ICANN claims it has killed domain name tasting.