Trademark Law: Trademarks and the Internet

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trademarksSimply because a trademark owner hasn’t used his trademark in a domain name, Facebook profile name, Twitter name, or other social media does not mean that you can grab the name and use it to drive traffic to your business. This is the same trademark infringement issue one sees where a business uses its competitor’s trademark as a keyword in a Google AdWords campaign.

It isn’t a gray area. You can be held liable for infringement, deceptive practices, and under several other legal theories. If the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you might also be on the hook for hefty statutory damages plus the trademark owner’s attorney fees.

When in doubt, don’t use a competitor’s mark in your marketing and advertising until you’ve consulted with a lawyer who knows intellectual property law.

Trademark Infringement: Do Website References and External Links Violate Intellectual Property Law?

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not jones day lawyersMega law firm Jones Day reinforces prior statements that have been made about business attorneys who decide to wade into Internet law. Jones Day is allegedly suing website owners for trademark infringement because the site referred to the law firm without obtain permission and externally linked to the business’s website.

This is different than another recent case where a law firm sued a competitor for trademark infringement. In the Jones Day case, the defendant is not a competitor – the business apparently just doesn’t like the context in which it has been referred to on the site, i.e. the defendant posted information about condominiums purchased by two Jones Day lawyers.

While you can never Read More

Blogger Sued By Paparazzi For $7.6 Million

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Blogger Perez Hilton is being sued for copyright infringement for using 51 celebrity pics without the permission of the paparazzi photo agency who own them. At issue is whether the blogger can “borrow” the pics under the fair use exception, alter the pics to make a point, and post them on his site. From biting commentary on Mary-Kate Olsen’s latest hairdo to the misadventures of Britney Spears, Hilton pulls no punches.

Although I’ll be personally rooting for the blogger to win this battle, legal precedent suggests the courts are going to side with the copyright owner.

However, this case raises a larger issue. Like RIAA and MPAA battling P2P file sharing, the photo agency is fighting a losing battle in the long run. Even if Hilton loses, somewhere in Eastern Europe or Asia there are dozens of replacement bloggers ready to meet the demand for this content…posting to the Internet from locations beyond the reach of U.S. intellectual property law. The paparazzi need to find a way to profit share in joint ventures with domestic bloggers like Hilton to adapt to online media trends.

Hat tip to Robin Abcarian at the L.A. Times.