Geographic Trademark Leads to Interesting (& Tortured) Injunction–Skydive Arizona v. Quattrocchi

By Eric Goldman

Skydive Arizona, Inc. v. Quattrocchi, 2010 WL 1743189 (D. Ariz. April 29, 2010).

A jury found that the defendants had committed trademark infringement, false advertising and cybersquatting and awarded $2.5M in damages, which the judge doubled. Unfortunately, the court’s opinion does not precisely spell out what the defendants did wrong. This story gives a little background,and this site shows that the defendants are pretty unpopular. The opinion indicates there was testimony that the defendants had sold bogus gift certificates for the plaintiffs’ offerings and had offered inferior services using the same name as plaintiffs’. The court also says “numerous websites operated by Defendants falsely claimed Defendants owned or operated skydiving centers in Arizona, Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, Glendale, Yuma, Flagstaff, Chandler, Peoria, and Tucson when Defendants neither owned nor operated any such facilities. Additionally, the Court found that Defendants engaged in unfair competition by using photographs of Plaintiff’s business on their website.”

The main trademark at issue appears to be “Skydive Arizona,” one of those lousy trademarks that sits right at the border of descriptive and generic. See, e.g., the Boston Duck Tours case. With such a crummy trademark at issue, the court sliced injunctive relief carefully. On the question of Internet marketing, the court says:

Plaintiff also requests that this Court prohibit Defendants from using the “Skydive Arizona” trademark or other confusingly similar terms in links or keywords on their websites. The Court finds that such relief is appropriate, especially because Defendants’ business primarily utilizes the internet, and will extend Plaintiff’s request to include the phrases “Arizona Skydiving” and “Skydiving Arizona” as well. Persons searching for Plaintiff’s business should not be erroneously led to Defendant’s website due to these marks placement in a meta tag or other link on Defendant’s websites. See, e.g., Bernina of America, Inc. v. Fashion Fabrics Intern., Inc., 57 U.S.P.Q.2d 1881, 1884 (N.D.Ill.2001) (preliminarily enjoining defendant from using plaintiff’s trademark in meta tags); DeVry/Becker Educ. Dev. Corp. v. Totaltape, Inc., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1230, *7-8 (N.D.Ill. Jan. 22, 2002) (enjoining use of plaintiff’s trademark in internet links and keywords, and “in any other manner in connection with the internet that would cause consumers to believe erroneously that [defendant’s] goods or services are somehow sponsored by, authorized by, licensed by, or in any other way associated with [plaintiff]”.). In taking this step, the Court is not unaware of Defendants’ concerns that the generic nature of the words “skydive” and “Arizona” will unfairly prevent Defendants from practicing their business in Arizona. The injunction, however, is not a blanket prohibition against using these words on its website or in meta tags. It merely prohibits Defendants from using “Skydive Arizona,” “Arizona Skydiving,” “Skydiving Arizona,” and any other combination of those words that is confusingly similar to that mark. There is, for example, a difference between using those words in combination as proper nouns, and merely utilizing them individually or in the course of a sentence. The former, depending on the circumstances, is likely prohibited by this injunction, but the latter usage probably is not.

This translates into the following injunction:

from using the trademark “Skydive Arizona,” or any marks that are confusingly similar to or colorable imitations of that trademark, and from using “Skydiving Arizona,” and “Arizona Skydiving,” on or in connection with or as part of any website, including in meta tags, keywords in pay-for-placement or payfor-rank search engines, in source code or other computer code, for the retrieval of data or information or as search terms, in the domain names of any websites, in any titles, headings, statements, links or other text appearing on any page of any website in any location on any websites registered, owned, or used, directly or indirectly, by any of the Defendants

I find the fretting about metatags anachronistically amusing (in a cynical way), but I wonder about the specific contours of this injunction. For example, is it a violation for the defendants to broad-match “skydive” or “skydiving” and geographically restrict the ad to Arizona? It also appears that the site can include statements like “Skydiving in Arizona” or “If you’re in Arizona and want to skydive, visit us.” I appreciate that the judge recognized the speech restriction concerns of an overbroad injunction, but these types of language contortions are a good sign that the trademark may not have deserved the protection it apparently is getting.

The court also rejected some other overreaching plaintiff requests, such as that the defendants be barred from using the word “Arizona” in any domain name or website and limiting the defendants to operating only 1 skydiving-related website. The defendants also get to keep skydivinginarizona.com.

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