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Internet Trademark Case Summaries

eBay, Inc., v. Bidder's Edge, Inc.

100 F. Supp. 2d 1058 (N.D. Cal. 2000)

eBay sued defendant, an auction-aggregating website, alleging trespass, false advertising, and trademark dilution.  Defendant offered online auction buyers the ability to search for items across many online auctions without having to search each host site individually.  Defendant employed “software robots” or “spiders” to automatically search plaintiff’s website for auction information to add to its own database.  Plaintiff, which permitted only limited “robot” searches, attempted to block defendant’s access to its site.  But defendant directed its “robot” queries through proxy servers to evade blocked access.  According to eBay, the load on its servers resulting from defendant’s web crawlers represented between 1.11% and 1.53% of the total load on eBay’s listing servers.  The parties agreed that defendant accessed the eBay site approximately 100,000 times a day.  After several failed attempts to secure a license arrangement, plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendant from accessing plaintiff’s computer system in any manner.  The court concluded that plaintiff made a strong showing that it was likely to prevail on the merits of its trespass claim and that there was at least a possibility that it would suffer irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction was not granted.  Defendant’s unauthorized activity and intentional interference with plaintiff’s possessory interest sufficiently established a cause of action for trespass to chattels.  Particularly persuasive was plaintiff’s argument that if defendant’s unchecked activity would “encourage other auction aggregators to engage in recursive searching” of plaintiff’s system and cause “irreparable harm from reduced system performance, system unavailability, or data losses.”  Therefore, the court granted plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.  The court denied plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction based on plaintiff’s trademark-infringement and trademark-dilution claims.  In a footnote, the court explained that even if plaintiff established a likelihood of success on the merits of these claims, that showing would not be sufficient to enjoin defendant from accessing plaintiff’s computer systems, which was the sole relief requested.  According to the court, plaintiff’s trademark causes of action would only support injunctive relief requiring defendant to post a disclaimer regarding its lack of affiliation with plaintiff and a clarifying statement about the limited scope of information provided on defendant’s website.