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Internet Trademark Case Summaries

Knight-McConnell v. Cummins

2004 U.S. Dist LEXIS 14746 (S.D.N.Y. July 29, 2004)

Plaintiff runs a website at “investortoinvestor.com,” which serves as a forum for investor discussions and a stock newsletter.  Defendant, a day trader, posted numerous messages on her own website and in various discussion groups describing plaintiff as a “criminal,” “insane,” and other unfavorable descriptions.  For the postings on defendant’s website, defendant included plaintiff’s name in the postdomain path of the URLs (e.g., “http://www.mary.cc/kathy-knight-mcconnell”). Defendant also linked her site to plaintiff’s site without permission.  Both parties appeared pro se.  Plaintiff claimed that defendant’s link without authorization, as well as the use of plaintiff’s name in the postdomain path of defendant’s URLs, constituted false designation of origin under the Lanham Act among other claims.  Defendant moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and the court granted the motion giving plaintiff leave to replead.  Regarding the Lanham Act claim, the court stated that “even if we assume that plaintiff’s name is a valid and protectable mark, plaintiff has not alleged that the defendant engaged in any conduct that is likely to cause confusion as to the origin of the defendant’s website.”  The court also remarked that “the mere appearance” of a hyperlink will not lead users to conclude that the site they visited is “associated” with the site linked.  This was particularly true here where defendant advertised real-estate and web-design services as opposed to plaintiff’s investment services, and defendant clearly disassociated herself from plaintiff by criticizing plaintiff.  The court similarly found that defendant’s use of plaintiff’s name in the postdomain paths of her website URLs and using those URLs on chat forums, discussion boards, and search engines did not give rise to any “source confusion,” citing the Interactive Products case.