April-May 2011 Quick Links, Part 1 (Trademarks and Advertising Edition)

By Eric Goldman


* Facebook has quite an active trademark docket.

– Facebook, Inc. v. Teachbook.com, LLC, 2011 WL 1672464 (N.D.Cal. May 3, 2011). Facebook’s trademark suit against Teachbook was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Facebook promptly refiled in Illinois.

Facebook sues Various over a “Face Book of Sex” site.

– Facebook v. Bearbook. Facebook forced a name change at a site for “bears.”

* What are people bringing trademark lawsuits over? Sears is suing over DieHard sex spray, whiskey manufacturers are suing over “Give ‘Em the Bird,” and the Huey P. Newton Foundation is suing CafePress over “All Power to the People” (one of the rare times when “Power to the People” and trademark enforcement will be in the same sentence). And don’t forget the laughable claim that the NYSE has trademark protection in its trading floor.

* Newport News Holding Co v. Virtual City Vision (4th Cir. April 18, 2011). Newportnews.com is the subject of an ACPA loss 10 years after it survived a UDRP. What went wrong? “[I]n making changes to its website in 2007, VCV shifted its focus away from the legitimate service of providing information related to the city of Newport News and became instead a website devoted primarily to women’s fashion….VCV cannot escape the consequences of its deliberate metamorphosis….newportnews.com went from being a website about a city that happened to have some apparel advertisements to a website about women’s apparel that happened to include minimal references to the city of Newport News.” Result of the ACPA loss: $80k in damages, $10k in sanctions and attorneys’ fees.

* It was a bad two months for plaintiffs suing keyword advertising defendants:

– Starsurgical, Inc. v. Aperta, LLC, 2011 WL 2037554 (E.D. Wis. May 24, 2011): “Star also claims that defendants infringe its mark by using it as a “keyword” on internet search engine advertising such that whenever a customer performs a search for the phrase “Wittmann Patch” defendants’ website appears as a sponsored search result. Star, however, makes no effort to explain how this activity confuses consumers. Cent. States, SE & SW Areas Pension Fund v. Midwest Motor Express, 181 F.3d 799, 808 (7th Cir.1999) (arguments not developed in any meaningful way are waived); see also Network Automation, Inc. v. Advanced Sys. Concepts, No. 10–55840, 2011 U.S.App. LEXIS 4488, at *37–39 (9th Cir. Mar. 8, 2011) (using a trademark in keyword advertising does not violate Lanham Act absent showing of likelihood of confusion).”

– World Entertainment, Inc. v. Brown, 2011 WL 2036686 (E.D. Pa. May 20, 2011): “Plaintiffs showed Brown’s use of their protected trademarks in advertising and diverting internet traffic to Grand Entertainment’s website through search engine phrase matching using Google Adwords and meta tags, but they did not offer any evidence suggesting the percentage of their business downturn caused by such infringement.” Accord InternetShopsInc.com v. Six C Consulting, Inc.

– The Scooter Store v. SpinLife.com, 2011 WL 1460438 (S.D. Ohio amended opinion April 18, 2011). The Scooter Store sued SpinLife for buying its trademarks in Google AdWords. This ruling preserves SpinLife’s antitrust counterclaims.

– Traveler’s Joy, Inc. v. Haycco LLC, 2011 WL 1587132 (S.D. Ind. April 26, 2011): “In an attempt to stave off dismissal, Joy points to numerous screenshots of Google’s search results and pages generally discussing how Google’s “AdWords” keyword-based advertising program operates. Based on this “evidence,” Joy jumps to the conclusion that Haycco’s advertisements are specifically targeted to users in Indianapolis. However, this evidence is in no way sufficient to establish that Haycco engaged in any such intentional targeting of Indiana. Instead, the credible evidence establishes that Haycco only engages in general web advertising.”

* Architectural Mailboxes, LLC v. Epoch Design, LLC, 2011 WL 1630809 (S.D. Cal. April 28, 2011). In a case involving critical comparative advertising, the court grants the advertiser’s nominative use defense on a motion to dismiss. Rebecca’s coverage.

* Koch v. Does. A hoax press release survives a trademark challenge. Coverage from EFF and Bill McGeveran.

* Eva Bridal Ltd. v. Halanick Enterprises Inc. (7th Cir. May 10, 2011). A botched franchising attempt leads to a finding that the purported franchisor abandoned the mark.

* be2 LLC v. Ivanov, 2011 WL 1565490 (7th Cir. April 27, 2011). An alleged knockoff website didn’t have jurisdiction when it had only 20 registered users in the plaintiff’s home court.


* The plaintiffs voluntarily dropped the Taco Bell beef lawsuit. But Taco Bell may not be done with the plaintiffs.

* NYT: A study suggests that 3 credit card merchant account providers support the vast majority of spammers. The paper. Unfortunately, this will almost certainly encourage politicians to deputize credit card providers as the Internet police.

* In a crackdown on fake “news” sites promoting acai berries, the FTC takes another broad view about affiliate liability (1, 2).

* Similarly, “The FTC has consistently maintained that sellers are responsible for their marketers’ telephone calls to solicit purchases of the seller’s goods or services.”

* NYT: angst about advergames oriented towards kids. Evidence that kids don’t understand ad labeling.

* The vegan-oriented magazine VegNews used stock photos of items containing meat to accompany the vegan recipes it publishes (and didn’t disclose this fact). The vegan community erupted in anger. VegNews initially stood its ground but finally relented and apologized.

* NYT on functional foods.

* Patton Boggs: “FTC Enforcement Against Individuals: Legal Standards Impacting Individual Liability for Alleged Violations Enforced by the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.”