Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Current Communications Group, LLC v. Current Media, LLC
2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40733 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 2, 2005)
Plaintiffs provided broadband Internet access through electric power lines in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and planned to provide this service in other cities. Plaintiffs had about 100 VoIP customers and planned to provide video content over electric power lines. Defendants planned to launch an interactive cable television network where viewers could upload videos to defendant’s “currenttv.com” website allowing defendants to broadcast the videos over their network. Viewers could also download videos from defendants’ website. Plaintiffs owned trademark registrations for the marks CURRENT COMMUNICATIONS, CURRENT BROADBAND, CURRENTREFERRAL, and CURRENTLINK, and owned the domain names “current.net,” “currenttechnologies.com,” and “currentgroup.com.” Plaintiffs sued for trademark infringement and unfair competition, and moved for a preliminary injunction. The court held that plaintiff failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of its infringement claim. Though plaintiffs registered their marks, they did not advertise them widely to the point that consumers beyond the limited geographic areas that plaintiffs serviced did not know plaintiffs’ marks apart from the substantial use by third-parties of the CURRENT marks. The court held that the goods and services of each party did not compete with each other. Defendants did not plan to provide Internet access or VoIP service as plaintiff did, and plaintiffs could not simulcast television programs through the Internet due to contractual prohibitions. Use of the Internet by both parties for marketing did not establish overlapping marketing channels. This factor favored defendants because the parties targeted different markets—plaintiff targeted individual subscribers of broadband, video, and VoIP services, while defendants targeted cable and satellite television distributors and advertisers. The court held that the likelihood of expansion of product lines favored defendants at present because defendants could not simulcast their television programming on the Internet due to contractual prohibitions. Plaintiffs’ plans to provide video services were speculative and plaintiffs did not desire to provide news and entertainment content of their own. Defendants did not plan to enter the ISP or VoIP markets. Because plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of success on their trademark infringement claims, they failed to establish irreparable harm. The court held that the balance of hardships favored defendants. Because the parties provided completely different services, plaintiffs could not establish that they would lose customers. Defendants however invested substantial assets and capital into programming that used its CURRENT TV mark and logo; changing their network name would create costly technical and contractual obstacles. The court held that these obstacles, though “not fatal to the continued existence of the network, would be particularly onerous to overcome.” The court thus denied plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.