Federal court orders removal of competitor references

A US district court judge has ordered a California business to mention one of its competitors less often on its own website. This followed a complaint by the competitor, JK Harris, that the 75 references to its name on the Taxes.com site were skewing search engine results, amounting to trademark infringement.

The homepage of Taxes.com, which gives access to tax negotiation experts, still refers to its rival tax assistance business in two places, stating: "Wall St Journal Reports JK Harris Raided by IRS" and "IRS Criminal Investigation Division Investigating JK Harris".

Other websites have been ordered by courts to remove hidden references to rivals' trademarks, primarily concerning the abuse of metatags. However, the order against Taxes.com is possibly the first decision of its kind - concerning the search performance of a website's primary content, not its hidden content, in circumstances where visitors to the site were clearly informed that the two sites were unconnected. It therefore seems to expand trademark protections.

Jon Fell, OUT-LAW.COM, Masons, London

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