May 2008 Quick Links, Part 1 (Trademarks/Domain Names Edition)

By Eric Goldman

* Syncsort Inc. v. Innovative Routines Intern., Inc., 2008 WL 1925304 (D.N.J. April 30, 2008). Including a third party trademark in a keyword metatag qualified as nominative use. (Along the same lines, see the Designer Skin case that I will blog about later this week).

* Punch Clock, Inc. v. Smart Software Development, 2008 WL 936889 (S.D. Fla. April 7, 2008). In a default judgment, a judge awarded the trademark owner the right to obtain 7 years of corrective advertising (a total of over $1M), calculated by what it would take for the trademark owner to buy the top spot in Google AdWords. Tom O’Toole sorts through this mess.

* A new ruling in the V Secret v. Moseley case. Rebecca puts it in context.

* Matthew Nelson, Comment, Utah’s Trademark Protection Act: Over-Reaching Unconstitutional Protectionism or Decisive Clarifying Legislation?, 2007 Utah L. Rev. 1199. A couple of months after the Utah legislature repealed the Utah Trademark Protection Act, a Utah law student says the law is unconstitutional. His conclusion:

The Utah Trademark Protection Act places an undue burden on interstate commerce and the courts should find it unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause using the Pike balancing test. Apart from the constitutional problems, the Act is bad policy for Utah businesses and Utah consumers. Although the unpredictability that currently exists in the courts makes it difficult for Internet advertisers and advertising sellers to mitigate risks and set efficient policy, these risks are far outweighed by costs to consumers and business. The Act sacrifices fair use, comparative advertising, and noncommercial use to gain certainty. These trademark functions are more important than the additional protections afforded mark holders under the law, protections that go too far and encourage anticonsumer policy rather than furthering the competitive environment trademark policy seeks to create.

Uses of keywords to trigger advertising that are unfair, deceptive, and contrary to trademark policy can still be pursued under the current common law. Trademark law is effectively evolving to handle these new challenges. If there should be legislation, it should be at the federal level because this issue so profoundly affects interstate commerce. The refining process that is occurring in the courts will provide Congress, should it choose to act, with valuable insight into how to handle all the competing interests in the rapidly growing area of Internet advertising.

* Tdata Inc. v. Aircraft Technical Publishers, 2008 WL 2169353 (S.D. Ohio May 21, 2008). Initial interest confusion does not substitute for actual confusion when considering if damages are appropriate under the Lanham Act. See my prior post on this case. See also the related Gibson Guitar case.

* I’m not exactly sure what’s going on in France, but a French court has asked the European Court of Justice to opine on the legitimacy of keyword advertising.

* Verisign has obtained a patent for its defunct SiteFinder tool. Domain name wildcarding was taking place for years before VeriSign tried it, so I wonder about the prior art to this patent.

* NYT: Can a Dead Brand Live Again? This article discusses the development of a secondary market for well-recognized but defunct brands. Says the market maker: “We’re taking consumers’ memories and starting entire businesses.”

* Todd Davies, A Behavioral Perspective on Technology Evolution and Domain Name Regulation, PAC. MCGEORGE GLOBAL BUS. & DEV. L.J. 21, 1-25 (2008). See my previous blog post about this paper.