Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Alta Vista Corp. v. Digital Equip. Corp.
44 F. Supp. 2d 72 (D. Mass. 1998)
Plaintiff Alta Vista Corporation, a U.K. literary agency, used the ALTA VISTA mark in the New York City and Los Angeles areas since 1993. Digital began using the mark AltaVista nationwide in connection with an Internet search engine in late 1995. Plaintiff sued Digital for trademark infringement based on the “reverse confusion” doctrine, seeking to enjoin Digital’s use of the AltaVista mark only in New York City and Los Angeles. Plaintiff alleged that Digital expanded its business and brought it into competition with plaintiff’s business when Digital entered into an agreement with amazon.com to promote amazon.com’s books on Digital’s AltaVista site and when Digital began offering entertainment content on the site. According to plaintiff, these actions turned the AltaVista search-engine site into a “full-fledged media company” that competed with plaintiffs. The court rejected that argument, however, denying plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction because the parties’ services were “fundamentally dissimilar and noncompetitive” so as to render confusion unlikely. The court also found that the balance of hardships favored Digital. Interestingly, although plaintiff limited its request for relief to only New York City and Los Angeles, any injunction would have to be worldwide to satisfy plaintiff’s request, because there was no way to block out all Internet users in those two areas.