Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Rhino Sports, Inc. v. Sport Court, Inc.
2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32970 (D. Ariz. May 2, 2007)
Rhino Sports and Sport Court both sold recreational flooring products. As part of a settlement of a 2002 lawsuit regarding Rhino’s alleged infringement of the SPORT COURT mark, Rhino agreed to a permanent injunction against its future use of the SPORT COURT mark. In 2006, Sport Court discovered that Rhino’s website, www.rhinocourts.com, appeared as a “sponsored link” on Google’s search engine in response to a search for the term “sport court” without quotations. Even though the sponsored link did not contain the SPORT COURT mark, Sport Court filed a new complaint that Rhino violated the injunction and asked the court to hold them in contempt. Arguing that the law in regard to trademark keyword purchasing had changed, Rhino responded with a motion to modify the injunction to allow future purchases of the keywords “sport court” from search engines such as Google. The court first held that Sport Court failed to show that Rhino violated the injunction because it only purchased the generic keywords “courts” and “basketball court.” Instead, the court noted that Google’s search engine, using its “broad match” feature, returned the www.rhinocourts.com website independent of any Rhino action. As Google confirmed, the term “sport court” was a “relevant variation” of the keyword “basketball court.” The court next held that Rhino failed to establish that either the law or the facts underlying the injunction had significantly changed to warrant a modification. Because the Ninth Circuit had not explicitly settled the issue of whether trademark keyword purchase caused initial-interest confusion or changed its analysis from Playboy that trademark-related keyword purchases were a use in commerce for Lanham Act purposes, the court found no significant change in the law. Further, although Google subsequently changed its policy to allow the open purchase of trademarked keywords, thus allowing other competitors to use Sport Court’s marks but not Rhino, this was simply Google’s “perception of the current state of the law” and did not warrant modification of the permanent injunction. Moreover, Rhino, unlike its competitors, voluntarily entered into the permanent injunction.