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Digital Equipment v. AltaVista Technology

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Citation Edit

Digital Equipment Corp. v. AltaVista Technology, Inc., 960 F. Supp. 456 (D. Mass. 1997) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

In early 1996, Digital Equipment purchased an assignment of ATI's rights to the AltaVista trademark, and immediately licensed back to ATI the right to use the AltaVista name as part of ATI's corporate name and as part of ATI's website addresshttp://www.altavista.com. However, the license agreement prohibited ATI from using AltaVista as "the name of a product or service offering."

However, soon after, ATI began using the AltaVista name on its own website, including at that site, for example, a link that would allow users to "receive demo versions of the AltaVista software."

Digital operates the prominent and highly successful AltaVista search service. Digital sued for violation of the license agreement and trademark infringement.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

ATI moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over ATI, a California corporation. The district court denied the motion. The court made note of the complexities of applying traditional jurisdictional concepts to Internet activity:

The Internet has no territorial boundaries. . . . Physical boundaries typically have framed legal boundaries, in effect creating signposts that warn that we will be required after crossing to abide by different rules. To impose traditional territorial concepts on the commercial uses of the Internet has dramatic implications, opening the Web user up to inconsistent regulations throughout fifty states, indeed, throughout the globe.

Here, however, because of ATI's prior licensing agreement with Digital and its sales of software to Massachusetts residents, the court found that jurisdiction was properly exercised.

The court held that ATI had breached its license agreement with Digital and thus had infringed the trademark rights that Digital had purchased from ATI.

the court granted Digital Equipment an injunction against AltaVista Technology's use of the “AltaVista” trademark on the website.

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