Whitney Infor. Network, Inc. v. Xcentric Ventures, LLC, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24920 (M.D. Fla. July 14, 2005).
Factual Background Edit
Plaintiffs provided real-estate and investment-related educational products, services, and training under the mark WHITNEY. Defendants operated the websites “ripoffreport.com” and “ripoffrevenge.com,” which provided an outlet for consumers to discuss companies that “ripoff” consumers. Defendants selected and posted on their website consumer complaints they received about other companies, which included complaints about plaintiffs. Defendants sold do-it-yourself kits to consumers to help them get their money back from the criticized companies. Defendants also sold advertising space on their website.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
Regarding plaintiffs’ trademark-related claims, the court dismissed the federal trademark infringement claim because plaintiffs marks were not federally registered and dismissed plaintiffs’ claims for false designation of origin and common-law trademark infringement because plaintiff failed to show a likelihood of confusion. The parties sold different goods and services; defendants used plaintiffs’ marks only to criticize the plaintiffs; the parties targeted different customers; and there was no evidence of actual confusion. In short, “consumer[s] looking for plaintiffs’ courses would not be confused by a consumer watch-dog type website that is not selling any real estate investment course.”
Finally, the court dismissed plaintiffs’ false-advertising claim because defendants did not advertise about the plaintiffs. Instead, defendants simply posted information about consumers’ experiences, good and bad, with plaintiff. Moreover, plaintiffs did not present any evidence that any of the postings on defendants’ website were false.
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