Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Green Products Co. v. Independence Corn By-Products Co.
992 F. Supp. 1070 (N.D. Iowa 1997).
Plaintiff Green Products Co. (“GPC”) and defendant Independence Corn By-Products Co. (“ICBP”) were direct competitors in the corn by-products market. Defendant registered the domain name “greenproducts.com,” GPC’s trademark and trade name, purportedly so that it could establish a link to its own “icbp.com” website for comparative advertising purposes. GPC sued for unfair competition and moved for a preliminary injunction both to enjoin ICBP’s use of the “greenproducts.com” domain name and to compel ICBP to transfer ownership of the domain name to GPC during the pendency of the litigation. IBCP agreed to place the domain name on hold but argued it should not be forced to relinquish ownership. The court granted GPC’s motion and ordered ICBP to transfer the domain name to GPC, finding that IBCP’s “deceptive use of a competitor’s trademark as a way to lure customers away from the competitor” was likely to cause confusion. The court rejected defendant’s arguments that it should view domain names as mere addresses and that confusion was unlikely because IBCP’s website would take precautions to ensure that Internet users accessing its website via the “greenproducts.com” link would not be confused. The court also found that GPC would suffer irreparable harm if ICBP continued to own the domain name, even if ICBP kept the name on hold, reasoning that GPC might lose customers if those customers took steps to discover that ICBP owned the domain name because those customers might erroneously believe that ICBP owned GPC or that GPC had merged with ICBP. Finally, the court determined that the public interest weighed strongly in favor of requiring IBCP to transfer the domain name to GPC.