Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. v. New Hampshire Youth Football & Spirit Conference, 2006 WL 2591480, 82 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1954 (D.N.H. Sept. 11, 2006).
Factual Background Edit
Plaintiff promoted team sports by authorizing local affiliates to use its POP WARNER mark for their football and spirit programs. Defendant operated as one of these affiliates and promoted its local POP WARNER football program at "nhpwfc.com," an acronym for its organization name "New Hampshire Pop Warner Football Conference." Defendant ended its relationship with plaintiff in 2005 and instead affiliated itself with one of plaintiff's competitors, the American Youth Football & Cheer Association. Defendant changed its trade name to "New Hampshire Pee Wee Football Conference," but kept "nhpwfc.com" as its website because the acronym for its organization name did not change. Defendant removed most references to "Pop Warner" from its website, but a few "Pop Warner" references remained in the site's metatags.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
Plaintiff sued for trademark infringement, dilution, and cybersquatting. The court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, holding that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits on its infringement and cybersquatting claims. Regarding defendant's use of the POP WARNER mark in the metatags of its website, the court held that plaintiffs made good faith efforts to remove all POP WARNER metatags as they came to their attention. Defendants claimed that the remaining metatags were unintentional and vowed to promptly remove them. Defendant also pledged to place a disclaimer on its website clarifying that it had no relationship with plaintiff.
The court sided with defendant and attributed any continued use of plaintiffs' marks on defendant's site to defendant's "technological inexperience or inefficiency," and not to "any intent to deceive or confuse the public." To the extent search engines continued to associate defendant's website with plaintiff's marks even after the metatags were removed was not defendant's fault, but rather the result of the algorithms used by search engines.
The court also rejected plaintiff's argument that defendant's use of the domain name "nhpwfc.com" it used while affiliated with plaintiff would cause confusion because: (1) defendant did not use "NHPWFC" to identify its goods or services, and (2) there was no evidence that plaintiff ever used the NHPWFC acronym, that the acronym had become associated with plaintiff, or that plaintiff had any protectible interest in the acronym. Likewise, the court rejected plaintiff's cybersquatting claim because plaintiff failed to show that it had any trademark interest in the acronym NHPWFC.
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