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Ford Motor v. 2600 Enterprises

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Citation Edit

Ford Motor Co. v. 2600 Enters., 177 F.Supp.2d 661, 61 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1757 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Defendants registered the domain name “fuckgeneralmotors.com,” which they linked to plaintiff’s official website at “ford.com.” Defendant Corey, a self-proclaimed artist and social critic, considered these actions to be a piece of humorous cyber-art.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Plaintiff sued, alleging dilution, infringement, and unfair competition, and moved for a preliminary injunction on those claims. The court denied plaintiff’s motion because it failed to allege facts sufficient to support its contentions that defendants’ use satisfied the “commercial use” requirement of the FTDA and the “in connection with goods and services” requirement for federal-trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The cases relied on by plaintiff, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Bucci,[1] and Jews for Jesus v. Brodsky,[2] did not support plaintiff’s argument that defendant’s use of the FORD mark was “commercial” because the defendant disparaged and prevented it from fully exploiting the value of its mark. First, the defendants in both Planned Parenthood and Jews for Jesus registered domain names containing the plaintiff’s trademarks, whereas defendant’s domain name “fuckgeneralmotors.com” domain name did not contain plaintiff’s FORD mark. Defendant merely used the FORD mark in its programming code to create a hyperlink to the “ford.com” website.

The court said that “[t]rademark law does not permit Plaintiff to enjoin persons from linking to its homepage simply because it does not like the domain name or other content of the linking webpage.” Second, “[i]f the FTDA’s “commercial use” requirement is to have any meaning, it cannot be interpreted so broadly as to include any use that might disparage or otherwise commercially harm the mark owner.” The court pointed out that both the FTDA and the courts extend protection for unauthorized noncommercial and commercial uses, including comparative advertising, news reporting, parody, and comedy.

Regarding plaintiff’s infringement and unfair-competition claims, plaintiff argued that defendant’s use of the FORD mark was “in connection with the distribution of services” because it was likely to prevent some Internet users from reaching plaintiff’s website. Defendants’ use of the FORD mark in their programming code, however, did not in any way inhibit Internet users from reaching plaintiff’s website. Moreover, when the unauthorized use does not compete with the trademark owner’s business, as in this case, the “in connection with goods or services” requirement is not satisfied simply because Internet users may face some difficulty in finding plaintiff’s website. Furthermore, any such difficulty is usually "trival," especially when searches on popular search engines yield the plaintiff's site as one of the top search results.

References Edit

  1. 1997 WL 133313, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3338, 42 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1430 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 1997), aff’d, 152 F.3d 920 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 834 (1998).
  2. 993 F. Supp. 282, 46 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 2d 1652 (D.N.J.)(full-text), aff’d per curiam, 159 F.3d 1351 (3d Cir. 1998).

Source Edit

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