Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Archdiocese of St. Louis v. Internet Entm't Group, Inc.
34 F. Supp. 2d 1145 (E.D. Mo. 1999) (opinion withdrawn at request of the court)
Plaintiff claimed common-law rights in the mark PAPAL VISIT 1999 and variations of that mark in connection with the visit of Pope John Paul II to St. Louis, Missouri, which occurred on January 26, 1999. Defendant operated websites located at the domain names “papalvisit.com” and “papalvisit1999.com,” which contained information on the Pope’s visit. But virtually every page on defendant’s websites also contained banner advertisements that linked to its adult-entertainment sites. The websites also featured pages devoted to off-color stories and jokes regarding the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Plaintiff sued, alleging that defendant’s websites infringed and diluted plaintiff’s marks. Ruling only on the dilution claim, the court characterized defendant’s activities as a cyberspace “bait and switch” scheme and held as a matter of law that defendant was making commercial use of plaintiff’s marks in commerce by purposefully promoting its Internet services to users who expected to access a website sponsored by plaintiff. The court further held that plaintiff’s “famous” marks and the spiritual image associated with them had been tarnished by use of the marks in connection with websites advertising and promoting sexually explicit materials and services. The court did not specifically address, however, the issue of why PAPAL VISIT was a protectable mark, let alone a famous one sufficient to qualify for federal-dilution protection. This decision was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the court.