Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Bauer
2006 WL 3733295 (D.N.D. Dec 15, 2006)
As a “service recovery tool” to passengers affected by flight irregularities, plaintiff Northwest Airlines (“Northwest”) distributed “e-Certificates,” which entitled the customer to a discount on their next Northwest ticket. The certificates explicitly stated that they were “transferable but not for cash or any other consideration” and that “purchase/auctioned [certificates] are subject to confiscation and travel will not be permitted.” Defendant advertised and sold these e-certificates for cash through his website at “northwestdiscountcoupons.com,” claiming that they were “completely transferable.” Plaintiff sued defendant for trademark infringement, dilution, deceptive trade practices, unfair competition, and cybersquatting. Plaintiff estimated that it was losing $1.2 million per year due to e-Certificate abuse and that defendant caused a portion of these losses. Plaintiff moved for an ex parte temporary restraining order, arguing that defendant’s actions violated the Lanham Act and that defendant’s sale of allegedly illegal and fraudulent certificates violated the public trust under North Dakota law. The court held that plaintiff established a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits of its infringement claim, finding that (1) plaintiff’s NORTHWEST mark was strong, (2) defendant’s use of the NORTHWEST mark on his website and in his domain name was substantially similar, (3) defendant competed with plaintiff, (4) defendant’s use of the NORTHWEST mark indicated that he intended to divert customers from plaintiff, (5) defendant’s actions likely created actual confusion, and (6) “the nature of the Internet makes it unlikely that consumers can avoid confusion through the exercise of due care.” The court also held that plaintiff established that without a temporary restraining order it would likely suffer irreparable harm; that the balance of the harms weighed in favor of plaintiff; and that the public interest weighed in favor of “protecting intellectual property and protecting consumers from fraud in all forums including the Internet.” Accordingly, the court granted plaintiff’s motion and temporarily enjoined defendant from, among other things, using the domain name “northwestdiscountcoupons.com” and any confusingly similar domain names, and using the mark NORTHWEST and any confusingly similar terms in a way likely to confuse customers into believing that defendant’s services were sponsored by, affiliated with, or otherwise endorsed in any way with plaintiff.