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Hyperlinks and Trademark Law Infringement


Standard Process, Inc. v. Banks - Edina Realty Inc. v. - Merck & Co. Inc. v. Mediplan Health Consulting Inc. - Buying for the Home, LLC v. Humble Abode -  Shainin II, LLC v. Allen - Key Bank N.A. d/b/a Champion Mortgage Co., Inc. v. James Griffin - Yahoo! v. Bill Skipton - Reed Executive v. Reed Business Information Limited - Explorer Cases - Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. v. Nissan Computer Corp. - Alta Vista Corp. v. Digital Equipment Corp. - PaineWebber Inc. v. Fortuny - Jeri-Jo Knitwear, Inc. v. Club Italia, Inc. - Ford Motor Company v. 2600 Enterprises - Bihari v. Gross - v. Sinclair - Imax Corporation v. Showmax, Inc. - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Doughney - OBH, Inc. v. Spotlight Magazine, Inc. - Jews for Jesus v. Brodsky - Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. v. Faber - Morrison & Foerster LLP v. Wick 


Standard Process, Inc. v. Banks

After more than ten years of metatag cases: The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin is the first to realize that keyword metatags don't matter to search engines!

Standard Process, Inc. v. Banks, 2008 WL 1805374 (E.D. Wis. April 18, 2008):

"Like the plaintiff in Promatek, Dr. Banks used Standard Process trademarks in the metatags of his website. However, today “modern search engines make little if any use of metatags.” ... As more and more webmasters “manipulated their keyword metatags to provide suboptimal keyword associations, search engines progressively realized that keyword metatags were a poor indicator of relevancy.” Accordingly, search engines today primarily use algorithms that rank a website by the number of other sites that link or point to it."

For more information on the case see: Goldman, Eric, Court Says Keyword Metatags Don't Matter - Standard Process v. Banks, Technology & Marketing Law Blog



Edina Realty Inc. v.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota held that the use of a rival real estate broker's trademark as a keyword term, as well as in the text of sponsored links, is not a fair use of the mark where there are other opinions for describing the market the defendant serves.

Without lengthy analysis, the court found that the defendant's purchase of search terms like “Edina Realty,” “Edina Reality,” “,” “EdinaRealty,” “,” “” and “”  on both Google and Yahoo did constitute use of the plaintiff's mark in commerce. The court held that although defendant's use was not "conventional," the purchase of terms comprising the marks, in order to generate sponsored link advertisements, satisfied the definition of use in commerce as provided in 15 U.S.C. §1127.

The court briefly evaluated the standard likelihood of confusion factors and found enough dispute about several factors to require a trial. Edina Realty proffered as evidence of actual confusion several e-mails received by MLSonline from consumers inquiring about Edina Realty.

MLSonline also sought dismissal of the trademark infringement claims advanced against it on the ground that its use was a permitted nominative fair use: 

The Court holds that defendant's use of the Edina Realty mark does not constitute nominative fair use as a matter of law.  Defendant uses the mark as an Internet search term, in its Sponsored Link advertisements, and in hidden text and hidden links on its website.  None of these uses requires the Edina Realty mark.  In its advertisements and hidden links and hidden text, defendant could easily describe the contents of its website by stating that it includes all real estate listings in the Twin Cities.  Similarly, defendant could rely on other search terms, such as Twin Cities real estate, to generate its advertisement.  In addition, defendant's use of the Edina Realty mark in its advertisement does not reflect the true relationship between plaintiff and defendant.  Defendant's advertisement that has appeared on Yahoo, for example, places the Edina Realty mark in the headline, which is underlined and in bold font.  The name of defendant's company is listed in much smaller font at the bottom of the ad.  Defendant could have done more to prevent an improper inference regarding the relationship.

In May 2006, the case settled. Lawyers representing Edina Realty and confirmed that a deal has been reached but said its terms were confidential.

Also see: Goldman, Eric, Competitor's Keyword Ad Purchase May Be Trademark Infringement--Edina Realty v. TheMLSonline, Technology & Marketing Law Blog

Edina Realty Inc. v., Decision of March 20, 2006, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota


Merck & Co. Inc. v. Mediplan Health Consulting Inc.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the purchase of keyword advertising triggered by a trademarked term is not an actionable "use in commerce" (Merck & Co. Inc. v. Mediplan Health Consulting Inc. (SDNY Mar. 30, 2006). Federal law provides that a mark is "used in commerce" (15 U.S.C. § 1127 (1)) in connection with services "when it is used or displayed in the sale or advertising of services and the services are rendered in commerce" (15 U.S.C. § 1127 (2)). According to the court "the ZOCOR mark is used only in the sense that a computer user's search of the keyword "ZOCOR" will trigger the display of sponsored links to defendant's website. This internal use of the mark "ZOCOR" as a key word to trigger the display of sponsored links is not use of the mark in a trademark sense."  The Court found further support for its decision in the fact that "defendants actually sell Zocor (manufactured by Merck's Canadian affiliates) on their websites.  Under these circumstances, there is nothing improper with defendants' purchase of sponsored links to their websites from searches of the keyword "Zocor."

So, simply put the Merck case is directly contrary to the Edina Realty case on the question of whether purchasing a competitor's trademark as a keyword constitutes use in commerce.  Upon a motion to reconsider and review the Edina Realty opinion, the Merck court reaffirmed its ruling dismissing the mark owner's trademark infringement claims. Merck., F.Supp.2d, 2006 WL 1418616 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2006).

Two lower courts have ruled that use of a trademarked term to trigger ads is "use in commerce." See Government Employee Ins. Co. v. Google Inc., 330 F.Supp.2d 700 (E.D. Va. 2004) and Google Inc. v. American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. (N.D. Cal. March 30, 2005).

Also see:

Merck & Co. Inc. v. Mediplan Health Consulting Inc., Decision of April 7, 2006, U.S. District Court Southern District of New York


Buying for the Home, LLC v. Humble Abode

German courts are still split on the question whether the use of trademarks as keywords that trigger the display of ads are permissible. So are courts in the USA. According to the latest decision Buying for the Home, LLC v. Humble Abode, LLC, 03-CV-2783 (JAP) (D.N.J. Oct. 20, 2006) buying keywords constitutes trademark use.

Are advertisers making a trademark use in commerce when they buy keyword advertising.?The court summarized the latest court decisions in the USA as follows:

"Plaintiff alleges Defendants purchased advertising linked to the search term TOTAL BEDROOM from the search engine company Google. Google, as well as other search engines, “sell[s] advertising linked to search terms, so that when a consumer enters a particular search term, the results page displays not only a list of Websites generated by the search engine program using neutral and objective criteria, but also links to Websites of paid advertisers (listed as ‘Sponsored Links’).” Gov't Employees Ins. Co. v. Google, Inc., 330 F. Supp. 2d 700, 702 (E.D. Va. 2004). The advertisement and link to Humble Abode’s website appeared on the far right of the screen, separate and apart from the search results list, under the heading “Sponsored Links.” Humble’s advertisement does not display the mark TOTAL BEDROOM.
To be actionable under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, a defendant’s “use” of a plaintiff’s mark must be “in commerce” and “on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods.” 15 U.S.C. 1125(a). In this regard, courts presented with claims similar to  those in the present case involving the purchase or sale of trademarks as search engine keywords generally have examined whether the defendant’s alleged “use” of the mark constituted a “trademark use” generally, i.e., commercial use of the mark as a trademark, e.g., 800-JR Cigar, Inc., v., Inc., Civil Action No. 00-3179, 2006 WL 1971659, *6-8 (D.N.J. July 13, 2006), or have examined “use” by looking more specifically at the definition of “use in commerce” under the Lanham Act, e.g., Merck & Co. v. MSD Technology, L.P., 425 F. Supp. 2d 402, 415-16 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). The Third Circuit has not spoken on the issue of whether the purchase and/or sale of keywords that trigger advertising constitutes the type of “use”
contemplated by the Lanham Act, and decisions from other courts that have addressed the issue are conflicting. In a recent decision in the Southern District of New York, Merck & Co. v. MSD Technology, plaintiff drug company brought an action against various Canadian entities that operated online pharmacies alleging, inter alia, unfair competition and trademark infringement under federal and state law. The Canadian entities had purchased from the Internet search engine companies Google and Yahoo! the right to have links to their website displayed as “Sponsored Links” when a computed user conducted a search using plaintiff’s mark ZOCOR. The court, in granting defendant’s motion to dismiss, found that

in the search engine context, defendants to do not ‘place’ the ZOCOR marks on any goods or containers or displays or associated documents, nor do they use them in any way to indicate source or sponsorship. Rather, the ZOCOR mark is “used” only in the sense that the computer user’s search of the keyword “Zocor” will trigger the display of the sponsored links to defendants’ websites. This internal use of the mark “Zocor” as a key word to trigger the display of sponsored links is not use of the mark in a trademark sense.
Merck & Co., 425 F. Supp. 2d at 415.

Another district court addressing similar claims on similar facts found differently. In Edina Realty, Inc. v. The, Civ. 04-4371JRTFLN, 2006 WL 737064 (D. Minn. March 20, 2006), the defendant, a direct competitor of plaintiff, had purchased from Google and Yahoo! search terms that were identical or similar to plaintiff’s EDINA REALTY trademark. In denying the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the Court found defendants use of the mark constituted a “use in commerce” under the Lanham Act, holding:

While not a conventional “use in commerce,” defendant nevertheless uses the Edina Realty mark commercially. Defendant purchases search terms that include the Edina Realty mark to generate its sponsored link advertisement. See Brookfield Communs., Inc. v. W. Coast Entm't Corp., 174 F.3d 1036, 1064 (9th Cir.1999) (finding Internet metatags to be a use in commerce). Based on the plain
meaning of the Lanham Act, the purchase of search terms is a use in commerce.

Edina Realty, 2006 WL 737064 at *3.

Similar actions brought against defendants who engage in the sale of the search terms, as opposed to the purchasers of those terms, have likewise reached differing conclusions concerning “use.” Compare Rescuecom Corp. v. Google, Inc., No. 5:04-cv-1055, 2006 WL 2811711 (Sept. 28, 2006) (granting Google’s motion to dismiss finding that “in the absence of allegations that defendant placed plaintiff's trademark on any goods, displays, containers, or advertisements, or used plaintiff's trademark in any way that indicates source or origin, plaintiff can prove no facts in support of its claim which would demonstrate trademark use”) with 800-JR Cigar, Inc., v., Inc., Civil Action No. 00-3179, 2006 WL 1971659, *8 (D.N.J. July 13, 2006) (denying summary judgment and finding sufficient evidence to support claim that defendant made “trademark use” of plaintiff’s mark where defendant (1) accepted bids on the plaintiff's trademark from the plaintiff's competitors, thereby trading on the value of the marks; (2) ranked paid advertisers before “natural” listings among the search results, thereby acting as a conduit to steer competitors away from plaintiff; and (3) suggested search terms including the plaintiff's trademarks to the plaintiff's competitors); Google v. American Blind & Wallpaper Factory, Inc., No. 03-05340, 2005 WL 832398 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 30, 2005) (denying motion to dismiss in light
of the unsettled state of the law with respect to actionable “use” of a trademark in the search engine context); GEICO v. Google, Inc., 330 F. Supp. 2d 700 (E.D. Va. 2004) (denying motion to dismiss finding allegations that defendant allowed advertisers to bid on trademarks as search terms and to pay for advertising linked to trademarks were sufficient to establish trademark use). The Court is mindful of the challenges that sometime arise in applying existing legal principles in the context of newer technologies. As expressed by the Edina Realty court, supra, Defendants’ alleged use of Plaintiff’s mark is certainly not a traditional “use in commerce.” 2006 WL 737064 at *3. Nonetheless, the Court finds Plaintiff has satisfied the “use” requirement of the Lanham Act in that Defendants’ alleged use was “in commerce” and was “in connection with any goods or services.” 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1). First, the alleged purchase of the keyword was a commercial transaction that occurred “in commerce,” trading on the value of Plaintiff’s mark. Second, Defendants’ alleged use was both “in commerce” and “in connection with any goods or services” in that Plaintiff’s mark was allegedly used to trigger commercial advertising which included a link to Defendants’ furniture retailing website. Therefore, not only was the alleged use of Plaintiff’s mark tied to the promotion of Defendants’ goods and retail services, but the mark was used to provide a computer user with direct access (i.e., a link) to Defendants’ website through which the user could make furniture purchases. The Court finds that these allegations clearly satisfy the Lanham Act’s “use” requirement.

Also see:


Shainin II, LLC v. Allen

On May 15, 2006, Judge Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington entered an order enjoining a former employee from using his former employer's trademarks as metatags in a web site promoting competing services, Shainin II, LLC v. Allen, (Slip Op.) 2006 WL 1319405 (May 15, 2006).



Key Bank N.A. d/b/a Champion Mortgage Co., Inc. v. James Griffin

The complainent owned a registered trademark for "Champion Mortgage". The respondent used the disputed domain name "" to redirect users to a commercial website for respondants gain. This was not a bona fide offering of goods or services, the panalist said. Although the respondant also provided consumers with information and services regarding a lawsuit against the Complainant, the National Arbitration Forum held that the use of a domain to link to a lawsuit site against the mark holder showes bad faith: "... However, the Panel is not aware that one suing another who holds a protected trademark acquires some right to use the targeted litigant’s protected mark in ways that benefit the user and not the holder of the mark." 


National Arbitration Forum: Yahoo! v. Bill Skipton

Complainant Yahoo! Inc. commenced an action against Respondent, Bill Skipton, asserting that Respondent’s "" domain name was confusingly similar to Complainant’s Y! mark. Respondent was using the disputed domain name to sell software designed to hack into Complainant’s Yahoo! Messenger software. The Panel noted that the only similarity between Complainant’s Y! mark and the "" domain name was the letter “y,” which was insufficient to satisfy the first element of the Policy.  "...Thus reduced, this proceeding presents what appears to be a novel proposition, which is that a single letter of the English alphabet, in this instance the letter Y, may ground a claim of confusing similarity within the meaning of Policy... Complainant argues, in essence, that Y can only stand for Y!.  But Y is not Y!.  It is no more than a literal truth that the expressive punctuation for which Complainant is well known is fully half its mark. And, as was noted in Entrepreneur Media, supra, small differences matter.  Indeed, without the exclamation mark, Y is just Y.  It could as easily stand for the chemical element yttrium, or instead for YMCA, or, particularly aptly here, an unknown quantity."


Reed Executive v. Reed Business Information Limited

And finally to a trademark related decision from Great Britain from 2004, which I apparently missed at the time: In 1986 Reed Employment registered the trade mark "Reed" for employment services. Reed Business Information had paid the search-engine company Yahoo for a banner advertisement for its website to appear when a search was conducted under the term "reed". Overturning the High Court, the Court of Appeal  ruled that the public would not be confused by the banner advert into thinking that totaljobs was connected to Reed Employment:  "The web-using member of the public knows that all sorts of banners appear when he or she does a search and they are or may be triggered by something in the search. He or she also knows that searches produce fuzzy results – results with much rubbish thrown in. The idea that a search under the name Reed would make anyone think there was a trade connection between a totaljobs banner making no reference to the word 'Reed' and Reed Employment is fanciful. No likelihood of confusion was established."

The court also adressed meta-tags. See the full text of the decision!


Explorer - Cases

The company Symicron, the owner of the trademark "Explorer" in Germany, started sending out bundles of cease-and-desist-letters to webmasters who linked the American FTPX Corp. website, the maker of "FTP-Explorer", in 1997. The use of their trademark in a link would allegedly violate German trademark law. Adressees of the letters were many holders of private homepages, universities and Stefan Münz, who is well known for his Self HTML book. Several lawsuits followed. They resulted in quite disparate decisions. 


News Articles:  

  • June 15, 2005: Roth, Wolf-Dieter, Symicron: Konkurs eines Abmahners, Telepolis:
    "Unrecht lohnt sich doch nicht: Mit der Marke "Explorer" wurde einst eine der größten und bekanntesten Abmahnwellen des Internet gestartet. Doch es gab kein Produkt. Und nun gibt es auch kein Unternehmen mehr"

  • July 30, 2002: Marke "Explorer" wegen Bösgläubigkeit gelöscht, Heise:
    "Das Deutsche Patent- und Markenamt (DPMA) hat heute per Beschluss die deutsche Marke "Explorer" gelöscht."
  • May 30, 2002: Stefan Münz sucht Verwendung für 28000 Euro, 4Websites:
    "Für das Verfahren gegen die Abmahnung durch die Marke Explorer im letzten Jahr wurden in der Netzgemeinde fast 30000 Euro Spenden gesammelt."  
  • April 10, 2002: Explorer-Streit: Bayerische Richter urteilen anders, Heise:
    "Die in Konkurs gegangene Speedlink GmbH muss die Abmahnkosten im Rechtsstreit um einen Link auf die FTP-Explorer-Software tragen."
  • November 3, 2001: Münz-Urteil im „Explorer“-Streit rechtskräftig, Heise:
    "Stefan Münz darf im Rahmen seines Webentwickler-Tutorials SelfHTML auch weiterhin auf das Tool "FTP-Explorer" der amerikanischen FTPx Corp. verlinken."
  • September 19, 2001, "FTP Explorer" - Weiterer Etappensieg für Stefan Münz,
    "Laut dem Onlinemagazin Advograf hat der SELFHTML-Autor Stefan Münz im Rechtsstreit mit der Firma Symicron einen weiteren Etappensieg errungen, indem die Berufung Symicrons gegen ein früheres und zu Gunsten von Münz gefälltes Urteil zurückgewiesen wurde." 
  • September 1, 2001: "Explorer": Urheberrechtsklage abgewiesen, Heise:
    "Der Dauerrechtsstreit um die Marke "Explorer" der Ratinger Firma Symicron ist um einen weiteren Fall reicher. Am vergangenen Mittwoch hat die 12. Zivilkammer des Landgerichts Düsseldorf die Klage des früheren CHIP-Redakteurs Claus Vester abgewiesen, wie das satirische "Magazin gegen den Abmahnwahn" AdvoGraf berichtet."
  • August 2, 2001: Abmahnung: Gravenreuth siegt vor OLG München, ZDNet:
    "Richter verbieten Download des Programms FTP-Explorer von deutscher Website."
  • August 2, 2001: OLG München: „FTP-Explorer“-Link verletzt Markenrecht, Heise:
    "Das Oberlandesgericht (OLG) München hat heute in einem Berufungsverfahren festgestellt, dass Webpage-Betreiber nach Ansicht des Gerichts für Links zu fremden Inhalten haftbar gemacht werden können."
  • July 23, 2001: OLG Braunschweig: Keine Haftung für Hyperlinks, Heise:
    "Zum jüngst ergangenen Urteil gegen die Firma Symicron liegt jetzt die schriftliche Begründung des Oberlandesgerichts (OLG) Braunschweig vor."
  • July 19, 2001: OLG Braunschweig: Links zu FTP-Explorer sind rechtens, Heise:
    "Die Firma Symicron hat im Markenrechtsstreit um den Begriff "Explorer" eine Schlappe hinnehmen müssen."
  • June 28, 2001: Kein Urteil im Prozess Münz gegen Symicron, Heise:
    "Vor dem 27. Senat des Oberlandesgerichts Düsseldorf wurde gestern der Rechtsstreit zwischen dem Autor Stefan Münz und der Firma Symicron um die Benutzung des Markennamens "Explorer" verhandelt."
  • March 10, 2001: Delbrouck, Dirk, Marke "Explorer" könnte gelöscht werden, ZDNet:
    "Recherchen ergeben, dass Symicron den Namen vor 1995 nicht verwendet hat."
  • March 8, 2001: Die Jagd nach dem verlorenen Explorer, AdvoGraf:
    "Die Angaben, die die Firma Symicron zum Vertrieb ihrer Software "Explorer" sind höchst zweifelhaft."
  • February 21, 2001: Rieger, Susanne, Gravenreuth und Symicron unterliegen vor Gericht, ZDNet:
    "Bei der gestrigen mündlichen Berufungsverhandlung zwischen Ulrike Strieder und der Symicron, die vor dem Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf verhandelt wurde, musste die Inhaberin des "Explorer"-Markennamens, vertreten durch ihren Anwalt Günter Freiherr von Gravenreuth eine Niederlage hinnehmen."
  • February 1, 2001: Graf, Thorsten, Der FTP-Explorer-Fall - Beispiel für schwindende Kennzeichnungskraft einer Marke, Freedom for Links
  • December 28, 2000: Prozess um "FTP-Explorer"-Link geht in die nächste Instanz, Heise:
    "Ende Oktober entschied das Landgericht Düsseldorf im Rechtsstreit um den "FTP-Explorer"-Link auf den SelfHTML-Seiten, dass die Nennung des FTP-Explorer wie auch der Link zur amerikanischen Firma FTPx Corporation keine Rechte der Ratinger Firma Symicron verletze."
  • December 12, 2000: Gericht: "FTP-Explorer" verletzt Markenrechte nicht, Heise:
    "Die Firma Symicron hat erneut einen Prozess um die Benutzung des Namens "Explorer" verloren."
  • November 28, 2000: Explorer-Streit: Landgericht entscheidet zu Gunsten Gravenreuths, Heise:
    "Im Rahmen der Streitigkeiten, ob ein Link auf die Downloadmöglichkeit des Programms "FTP-Explorer" Markenrechte der Ratinger Firma Symicron verletzt, war Streit um die Begleichung der Abmahnkosten in Höhe von 1633 Mark entbrannt."
  • November 3, 2000: Explorer-Streit: Symicron muss Abmahnkosten selbst tragen, Heise:
    "Der Betreiber einer Suchmaschine haftet für markenrechtsverletzende Querverweise nur, wenn der Gesetzesverstoß auch für den juristischen Laien offenkundig war."
  • October 26, 2000: Rieger, Susanne, Münz gewinnt Explorer-Fall, ZDNet:
    "Symicron und von Gravenreuth wollen in die Berufung gehen."
  • October 25, 2000: „FTP-Explorer“-Prozess in erster Instanz entschieden, Heise:
     "Wie bereits in der Verhandlung Ende September anklang, hat SELFHTML-Autor Stefan Münz den Rechtsstreit um den "FTP-Explorer"-Link in erster Instanz gewonnen."
  • September 26, 2000: Sieg im Explorer-Prozess für Münz, PC-Welt:
    "Stefan Münz hat die erste Instanz der negativen Feststellungsklage gegen die Abmahnung des Rechtsanwalts von Gravenreuth gewonnen."
  • September 21, 2000: Baumgärtel, Tilman, Explorer-Klage wird wohl abgewiesen, BerlinOnline:
    "Stefan Münz, der Autor der beliebten Webdesign-Führers "SELFHTML" dürfte in dem Verfahren, welches Software-Unternehmen Symicron gegen ihn angestrengt hat, Recht bekommen."
  • September 21, 2000: Mueller, Dietmar, Noch kein Urteil im Explorer-Fall, ZDNet:
     "Münz vs. Gravenreuth wird erst im Oktober entschieden."
  • September 20, 2000: Stefan Münz gewinnt "Explorer"-Prozess, Heise:
    "Der Autor von SELFHTML, Stefan Münz, hat den Rechtsstreit um den "FTP-Explorer"-Link in erster Instanz offenbar gewonnen."
  • September 19, 2000: Explorer-Abmahnungen: Gerichtsverhandlung und Netz-Demonstration, Heise:
    "Am Landgericht Düsseldorf wird morgen ab 10 Uhr der Fall Stefan Münz gegen die Firma Symicron mündlich verhandelt."
  • September 18, 2000: „Explorer“-Abmahnungen machen vor Unis nicht Halt, Heise:
    "Das Braunschweiger Landgericht hat die Klage der Fachhochschule Oldenburg/Ostfriesland/Wilhelmshaven gegen eine Explorer-Abmahnung abgewiesen."
  • May 11, 2000: Zivilrechtliche Schritte gegen Explorer-Abmahnungen, Heise:
    "Nach der Strafanzeige wegen der FTP-Explorer-Abmahnwelle kommt jetzt auch eine so genannte negative Feststellungsklage auf den Münchener Anwalt von Gravenreuth und seinen Mandanten Symicron zu." 
  • May 10, 1999: Neues-Link-Urteil,
    "Der Berliner Tagesspiegel berichtet in der heutigen Ausgabe über eine aktuelle Entscheidung des Oberlandesgerichts (OLG) München, wonach die Verlinkung einer Site im Internet den Linkenden teuer zu stehen kommen kann."
  • April 12, 1999: Rötzer, Florian, Wieder ein Link-Prozeß, Telepolis:
    "Wieder einmal geht es in einem Gerichtsprozeß, diesmal ab heute vor der Handelskammer des Münchner Landesgerichts, um die Verantwortung für Links zu fremden Inhalten."



More Information:


Also see the Decision Section!

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. v. Nissan Computer Corp.

Uzi Nissan registered the domain and initially used it to offer computer-related services. When he started displaying banner advertisments and web links to various Internet search engines and automobile merchandisers and including a logo, that was similar to the one used by Nissan Motor Co., he was sued. 

The court enjoined Uzi from displaying on its website any automobile-related information, advertising, or links, including links to automobile-related portions of Internet search engines.   

Also see the Decision Section: March 23, 2000


Update 25, December 2004:

Nissan Motor filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (CDCal) against Uzi Nissan, who owns a computer store in the state of North Carolina, alleging that the domain name "" diluted the "NISSAN" trademark in violation of the Federal Trademark Dilution Act (FTDA). The District Court enjoined Nissan Computer from publishing any commercial content in its web site located at and from placing links to other web sites that contain disparaging remarks or negative commentary about Nissan Motor (see the previous report by Links & Law here). This summer, the Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. As for the relevant question, whether linking to sites that contain disparaging comments about Nissan Motor on the website is commercial the appeal court held, that Links to negative commentary about Nissan Motor, and about this litigation, reflect a point of view that is protected by the First Amendment. So Injunctive relief may not restrain Nissan Computer from placing links on and to other sites that post negative commentary about Nissan Motor.

  • August 9, 2004, "" abgeschlossen,
    "Der Fall "" ist fast schon wie ein alter Bekannter. Immer wieder landet der Domain-Streit vor Gericht. Ein US-Berufungsgericht hat sich nun erneut mit dem Fall beschäftigt. Dieses Mal fiel die Entscheidung für den Computer-Händler Uzi Nissan aus."
  • Nissan Motor Co. v. Nissan Computer Corp.,
  • August 3, 2000, Matthews, Julian, Will The Real Nissandotcom Please Stand Up - Company Business and Marketing, Newsbytes:
    "Using one's own name for a dotcom may sound logical, but what if you just happen to share the name with a major corporation or celebrity? Well, be prepared to shell out the legal tab to protect it. Ask Mr Uzi Nissan, he should know."

Text of the decision:$file/0257148.pdf?openelement


Update 30: May 2005:

Nissan Motor is suing Nissan Computer for Trademark Infringement, Trademark Dilution and CyberSquatting, seeking 10 Million Dollars in damages. Links & Law has reported about the case in the past (see Update 25 for more details). The latest development is as follows: The Nissan Motor Co appealed the summer 2004 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, firstly to the Court of Appeals and then to the US Supreme Court. Both appeals have now been rejected.

  • April 20, 2005: Supreme Court rejects appeal,
    "The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by car giant Nissan Motor Co over the domain names and, following a decision by a California Appeals Court not to order the transfer of the domains, according to the Los Angeles Times."



Digital Equipment Corp. v. Alta Vista Corp.

Defendant was, inter alia, enjoined from using on its Web page at or elsewhere, a link (without any search boxes), direct or indirect, to Digital's AltaVista Internet Search Service that creates the false impression that ATI's Web site is Digital's AltaVista Search Service.  

Also see the Decision Section: March 12, 1997


PaineWebber Inc. v. Fortuny

Defendant registered the domain "", a misspelling of plaintiff’s domain name in that it omitted a period after "www." and linked visitors to pornographic websites. The court granted a temporary restraining order on April 2 and a preliminary injunction on April 9, 1999, holding that plaintiff’s trademark would be diluted by being linked with pornography.  

Also see the Decision Section: April 9, 1999

Jeri-Jo Knitwear, Inc. v. Club Italia, Inc.

The Defendant had been injuncted from advertising or promoting apparel bearing plaintiff's "Energie" trademark in the US. He is the holder of the trademark “Energie” in several european countries and operates three websites, one of them His other two websites and both contained a hyperlink to The US Court ordered the Defendant to remove the links, but did not find that the action was in contempt of the previous injunction.  

Also see the Decision Section: April 17, 2000

Ford Motor Company v. 2600 Enterprises

In 2001 Ford requested an injunction against 2600 Enterprises to prevent it from hyperlinking from the website “” to its own Website. In December 2001, the lawsuit was dismissed in its entirety for "failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” "Trademark law does not permit (Ford) to enjoin persons from linking to its homepage simply because it does not like the domain name or other content of the linking Web page." Besides ACLU v. Miller this is another decision that suggests that there might be a “right to link”.

Ford initially decided to appeal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but finally withdraw its appeal in June 2002.

News Articles:

  • June 28, 2002 : Ford Takes 2600 to Court, 2600 news:
    "Ford Motor Company has officially and unconditionally conceded its complete, utter, and perpetual loss on the merits of the FORD v. 2600 "" case."

  • June 28, 2002: Leyden, John, Ford loses 2600 lawsuit, The Register:
    "Online hacker magazine 2600 has emerged victorious in its campaign to retain ownership of the controversial domain."

  • February 1, 2002: Ford will keinen Link von, tecChannel:
    "Nach Angaben der Hacker-Postille hat Ford Rechtsmittel gegen den Freispruch von Eric Corley, Betreiber eines Online-Magazins, eingelegt."

  • January 31, 2002: McAuliffe, Wendy, Ford run over by hyperlinks, ZDNet:

  • December 25, 2001: darf auf Ford linken, futurezone:
    "Ein US-Gericht hat eine Klage der Ford Motor Company gegen das Hacking- und Bürgerrechtsurgestein 2600 Enterprises abgewiesen."

  • December 23, 2001: Greene, Thomas, wins dismissal in f**k- lawsuit, The Register:
    "A suit brought by Ford Motor Company against founder Eric Corley aka Emmanuel Goldstein for setting up the Web site to re-direct surfers to the Ford home page has been dismissed."

  • May 20, 2001: Auch Ford klagt gegen Eric Corley, Heise:
    "Zusätzlich zu dem Grundsatzprozess mit der US-Filmindustrie wegen der Veröffentlichung des Programms DeCSS hat der Betreiber von jetzt auch noch eine Klage der Ford Motor Company am Hals."

  • May 18, 2001: Kaplan, Carl, Cyber Law Journal: Hacker Gadfly at Center of New Suit, New York Times:
    "Eric Corley is in the legal soup again. The man at the center of the landmark DeCSS case - a federal court battle over Corley's posting of and linking to software code designed to decrypt DVD movies - is now being sued by the Ford Motor Company in a separate cyberspace matter."

  • April 28, 2001: Ford Takes 2600 To Court, 2600 News

  • October 21, 2000: Kahney, Leander, Hacker Site Raises GM's Hackles, Wired:
    "Bloodied but not bowed from recent courtroom skirmishes, 2600 Magazine is courting fresh legal battles by registering unflattering domain names referring to large corporations."

Legal Material:

For further material see the 2600 News Archive and dmoz.

Also see the Decision Section: December 20, 2001

Bihari v. Gross

Defendants operate several websites that are critical of plaintiff's interior design services. They contain links to other interior designers. They use plaintiffs' common-law service mark in meta tags to attract visitors. The Court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, holding that defendant's use of the mark in metatags is protected as a fair use, because the mark was only used in its descriptive sense to fairly identify the content of the websites. As for the hyperlinks, the court said: "Nor do the Gross websites offer any "commercial transaction." Defendants are not interior designers and do not sell visitors any products or services. However, the Gross websites contain hyperlinks to other websites which promote the services of other interior designers. The Gross websites effectively act as a conduit, steering potential customers away from Bihari Interiors and toward its competitors, thereby transforming his otherwise protected speech into a commercial use."

Also see the Decision Section: September 28, 2000  v.  Sinclair

The plaintiff operates an Internet city guide, that can be found at The Defendants began operation of their website under the domain name "" in late April 1999. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants had infringed his copyright by linking and framing content of the website and passed off wares and services as those of the plaintiff by adopting a confusingly similar mark. Toronto2 displayed a disclaimer that states that the Toronto2 website is not affiliated with the website.

The Court refused to grant an injunction because the Plaintiffs had no evidence demonstrating likelihood of confusion or loss of goodwill or reputation

Also see the Decision Section: Decision of June 1, 2000

Imax Corporation v. Showmax, Inc.

Plaintiff IMAX claimed, inter alia, that its imax trademark was infringed by links from a website operated by the defendant Showmax. Showmax has used its website to advertise the opening of the Showmax large-format theatre at the Forum Entertainment Centre in Montréal. The website also featured further links, including one which lead the viewer to the Old Port of Montréal website, which appeared framed within the framing page of the Showmax website. The Old Port of Montréal website, as framed, contained information and advertising regarding the Imax theatre at the Old Port of Montreal and displayed the Imax trademark.

The Court granted the request for an interlocutory injunction, restraining the defendant's use of the showmax trademark and other misleading conduct, including the unauthorized framing.  

Also see the Decision Section: Decision of January 18, 2000

Parody Sites


Some webmasters designed websites to parody or criticise other companies and used the trademark of the company in their domain-name. They got sued by the respective owner of the trademark. To succeed in their claim plaintiffs had to show that the use of their mark as the domain name constitutes commercial use. Several courts had to decide whether hyperlinks to other commercial sites in competition with the critized company or to other web pages containing negative opinions and stories, were sufficient to hold defendant’s “use in commerce”.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Doughney

Doughney registered the domain name and created a website called "People Eating Tasty Animals", a “resource for those who enjoy eating meat, wearing fur and leather, hunting, and the fruits of scientific research." PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) alleged, inter alia, service mark infringement. The website contained links to various meat, fur, leather, hunting, animal research, and other organizations, all of which held views generally antithetical to PETA's views. Another statement on the website asked the viewer whether he/she was "Feeling lost? Offended? Perhaps you should, like, exit immediately." The phrase "exit immediately" contained a hyperlink to PETA's official website.

PETA’s motion for summary judgement was granted  and later affirmed by the Fourth Circuit: “Moreover, Doughney's web site provides links to more than 30 commercial operations offering goods and services. By providing links to these commercial operations, Doughney's use of PETA's Mark is "in connection with" the sale of goods or services.“


Samson, Martin, Summary of the Decision

August 25, 2001: McCullagh, Declan, Ethical Treatment of PETA Domain, Wired

Also see the Decision Section: June 12, 2000 and August 23, 2001

OBH, Inc. v. Spotlight Magazine, Inc.

In early 1999 defendant decided to set up his own website to parody and provide a public forum for criticism of The Buffalo News' website. Therefore he registered the domain The website contains disparaging comments about The Buffalo News and hyperlinks to other websites containing negative opinions and stories about The Buffalo News. It also features hyperlinks to other news-related websites, e.g. other local news sources such as local magazines, newspapers, radio stations and television stations. At one point it also contained a hyperlink to the website ''", an online version of defendants' Apartment Spotlight Magazine.

The court granted a preliminary injunction, ordering the defendant to cease and desisit from using the domain name “First, defendants' use of plaintiffs' trademark as the domain name for the Tortora web site constitutes ''use in commerce'' because that web site contains a hyperlink that connects users to defendants' other web site, the online version of Apartment Spotlight Magazine, which they operate for commercial purposes, i.e.,advertising apartments for rent….

The facts present here are even more compelling than those in Planned Parenthood. Prospective users of plaintiffs' news services who mistakenly access defendants' web site may, instead of continuing to look of plaintiffs' web site, opt to select one of the several news-related hyperlinks contained in defendants' web site. These news-related hyperlinks will directly link the user to other news-related web sites that are in direct competition with plaintiffs in providing news-related services over the Internet. Thus, defendants' action in appropriating plaintiffs' mark is likely to have a negative affect on plaintiffs' commercial activities.”  

Also see the Decision Section: February 28, 2000

Jews for Jesus v. Brodsky

Plaintiff Organization, a non-profit, international outreach ministry owns the right to the service marks "Jews f<< StarOfDavid>>r Jesus" and "Jews for Jesus." The Defendant registered the domain to criticize the Plaintiff Organization. His website also contained a "hyperlink" to the Outreach Judaism (the "Outreach Judaism Organization") website, which also contains information critical of and contrary to the teachings of the Plaintiff Organization.

The court granted a preliminary injunction: “Although the Defendant Internet site does not solicit funds directly like the defendant's site did in Planned Parenthood, the Outreach Judaism Organization Internet site (available through the hyperlink) does do so through the sale of certain merchandise.  The Defendant does not argue that the Outreach Judaism Organization site is not commercial in nature.  Considering the limited nature of the Defendant Internet site and its hyperlink to the Outreach Judaism Organization Internet site, it is apparent the Defendant Internet site is a conduit to the Outreach Judaism Organization Internet site, notwithstanding the statement in the Disclaimer that "[t]his website ... is in no way affiliated with the Jewish organization Outreach Judaism...."

The activities of the Defendant are "in connection" with goods and services for several reasons.  First, the hyperlink in the Defendant Internet site to the Outreach Judaism Organization Internet site is designed to promote the viewpoint of the Outreach Judaism Organization and to encourage the purchase of the products and services offered by that organization.”   

Also see the Decision Section: March 6, 1998 and July 2, 1998

Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. v. Faber

Website developer Faber operated a "Bally Sucks" website dedicated to complaints and commentaries about Bally’s health club business practices. The site contained a statement that the site was “Unauthorized”, but used several Bally trademarks. Bally's claims included dilution-by-tarnishment based on defendant's "Drew Faber Web Site Services" site, which contained links to both a pornographic website and the "Bally Sucks" website. No direct link between the pornographic website and the “Bally Sucks” site existed.

The Court found that criticism of the Bally fitness company on a ‘Bally Sucks’ website did not infringe the company’s trademark because it amounted to non-commercial expression protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The court also rejected the linking argument: "Looking beyond the 'Bally sucks' site to other sites within the domain or to other linked sites would, to an extent, include the Internet in its entirety, thus making it an impossible task to determine dilution on the Internet."

Also see the Decision Section: December 21, 1998

Morrison & Foerster LLP v. Wick

The law firm Morrison and Foerster successfully sued Brian Wick, the owner of Internet website domain names similar to the firm's trademarked names. Mr. Wick's websites contained, inter alia, hyperlinks which allowed a user to link on to offensively named websites, such as,, and

The judge concluded "that if the public believed these (the websites) to be Morrison & Foerster's sites, Mr. Wick's web sites would harm the goodwill represented by Morrison & Foerster's mark. As noted above, Mr. Wick's sites contain many hyperlinks to Anti-Semitic, racist, and offensive domain names. Mr. Wick's sites refer to attorneys as parasites and are derogatory of the legal profession. Although some might profess to agree with Mr. Wick, the likelihood of confusion is great. Because Mr. Wick has placed his web sites at domain names identical or confusingly similiar to Morrsion & Foerster's mark, a user may wonder about Morrison & Foerster's affiliation with the sites or endorsement with the sites or endorsement of the sites."

Also see the Decision Section: April 19, 2000


Linking Cases

There have been a lot of lawsuits concerning linking, framing and search engine issues in the last years. In this section you'll find short introductions into the different cases and links to news articles about it. 

An overview over featured cases can be found here!

Latest News - Update 71

Legal trouble for YouTube in Germany

Germany: Employer may google job applicant

EU: Consultation on the E-Commerce-Directive

WIPO Paper on tradmarks and the internet

The ECJ and the AdWords Cases



Masthead/Curriculum Vitae
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