Print PDF

Plaintiff Nettis Environmental Ltd. and defendant were competitors in the in-plant ventilation market.  Defendant used “nettis” and “nettis environmental” as metatags on its website and registered “nettis” and “nettis environmental” as keywords with almost 400 search engines or websites.  Thus, when a person searched for the terms “nettis” or “nettis environmental” on a search engine, defendant’s site was revealed in the search results.  Nettis filed suit, alleging violations of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.  On that same day, defendant agreed to “purge its webpage of all materials which could cause a web search engine looking for ‘Nettis Environmental,’ ‘Nettis,’ or similar phrases to pull up IWI’s webpage.”  The parties stipulated to a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction enjoining the complained-of activities.  Although defendant purged its site of the offending metatags, it did not deregister “Nettis” and “Nettis Environmental” as keywords.  Defendant’s computer consultant mistakenly believed the keywords would be removed automatically when the metatags were purged.  When plaintiff discovered the keywords were not removed, it filed a contempt motion.  One day after receiving notice of the motion, defendant shut down its website and sent an e‑mail requesting all the search engines that registered the “Nettis” keywords to deregister them.  Although defendant took all reasonable steps to purge its site of the offending metatags, the court found defendant in contempt because it took no affirmative action to deregister the “Nettis” keywords until two months after ordered to do so.  Defendant’s reliance on the advice of its computer consultant was an indication that it did not willfully violate the order, but the court found that a reasonable person at least would have checked to see that the keywords were actually removed, as the consultant claimed they would be.  The court sanctioned defendant by ordering it to pay plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs incurred in seeking the contempt sanctions.