Trademark rights do not extend to post-domain URLs
In Interactive Products Corporation v a2z Mobile Office Solutions, for the first time, a US court of appeals has ruled that post-domain paths do not typically signify source. Therefore, the Sixth Circuit denied the plaintiff's claim, finding that "it is unlikely that the presence of another's trademark in the post-domain path of a URL [uniform resource locator] would ever violate trademark law".
At issue was a2z Mobile Office Solutions' (MOS) webpage which sells portable computer stands under the mark MOBILE DESK at the URL 'a2zsolutions.com/desks/floor/laptraveler/dkfl-lt.htm'. Interactive Products Corporation (IPC), the registered owner of the LAP TRAVELER mark and manufacturer of portable computer stands for use in automobiles, sued over the use of the word 'laptraveler', alleging trademark infringement, false designation of origin and dilution. MOS used the disputed word in its website's URL because at one time it sold IPC's Lap Traveler computer stands on its site. When this business relationship ended, IPC instructed MOS to remove all references to the Lap Traveler product from its site, but MOS did not comply.
To succeed on its trademark infringement claim, IPC would have had to prove that MOS's use of the LAP TRAVELER mark in its post-domain path identifies the source of the goods it is selling (ie, Mobile Desk computer stands), and that such use leads consumers to believe that Mobile Desk computer stands come from the same source as Lap Traveler computer stands.
The Sixth Circuit, affirming the lower court's grant of summary judgment in favour of MOS, determined that the post-domain path of a URL does not typically signify source, but rather merely shows how the website's data is organized within the host computer's files. In reaching this conclusion, the appellate court noted that IPC had not presented any evidence that the presence of its trademark in MOS's post-domain URL was likely to cause confusion among consumers as to either the source of the webpage or MOS's Mobile Desk computer stands.
Pasquale A Razzano, Fitzpatrick Cella Harper & Scinto, New York
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