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Internet Trademark Case Summaries

Am. Online, Inc. v. LCGM, Inc.

46 F. Supp. 2d 444 (E.D. Va. 1998)

Defendant transmitted over 92 million e‑mail messages to AOL members advertising its pornographic websites.  AOL alleged unfair competition, dilution, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and state-law trespass.  When defendant failed to comply with discovery orders, the court entered summary judgment against it on most of AOL’s claims.  The court held that by incorporating AOL’s registered trademark into the headers of the spam messages, defendant’s actions were likely to cause confusion as to the origin and sponsorship of defendant’s goods and services.  It also found that AOL’s famous mark was tarnished by the association with defendant’s spamming practices, due in part to the fact that AOL received over 450,000 complaints from its subscribers about defendant’s messages.  Defendant maintained an AOL membership, which it used to harvest the e‑mail addresses of other AOL members in violation of AOL’s service agreement.  The court held that this violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act’s prohibitions against “intentionally accessing a computer without authorization” and obtaining protected information or causing damage.  The court also found defendant’s bulk e‑mail practices to constitute trespass to chattels under Virginia law.  Defendant was enjoined from spamming AOL members, from using the AOL mark in any e‑mail headers, and from using the AOL network to harvest e‑mail addresses.  Defendant was also ordered to terminate any AOL membership.