Ford to appeal ruling on domain name prank

The Ford Motor Company has announced plans to appeal a US district court ruling (ED Michigan 01-CV-71685-DT, December 20 2001) that the registration of 'f***generalmotors.com' and configuring it to link directly to Ford's homepage does not violate trademark law.

Ford sued 2600 Enterprises alleging trademark dilution, trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The district court dismissed Ford's trademark infringement and unfair competition claims, stating that it was necessary for Ford to show that the defendant used the FORD trademark in connection with goods or services - which it does not. The court also dismissed the trademark dilution claim finding that Ford did not prove that the defendant benefited commercially from use of the mark.

The court went on to state that the defendant's use of the word 'ford' in its programming code to create a link did not hamper Ford's commercial success in any unlawful manner, and:

"The essence of the Internet is that sites are connected to facilitate access to information. Including linked sites as grounds for finding commercial use or dilution would extend the statute far beyond its intended purpose of protecting trademark owners from use that has the effect of lessening […] the capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish goods or services."

This language would seem to leave the door open to endless possible links that disparage famous trademarks. It remains to be seen whether the court of appeals will view the matter differently.

Douglas Wood and Linda Goldstein, Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood LLP, New York

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