Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Trans Union LLC v. Credit Research, Inc.
142 F. Supp. 2d 1029 (N.D. Ill. 2001)
Plaintiff Trans Union, a leading credit-reporting agency, sought a preliminary injunction against two local credit bureaus for misusing plaintiff’s trademarks on the Internet. The suit resulted from a longstanding service agreement under which defendants provided local credit information to plaintiff in exchange for access to plaintiff’s nationwide credit database. Plaintiff objected to defendants’ use of: (1) the Trans Union logo on their Internet sites, (2) use of the Trans Union name in metatags, and (3) use of the Trans Union name in the domain names “transunioncredit.com/.net/.org” and “creditbureautransunion.com/net/org.” The court denied plaintiff’s motion as to defendants’ metatag use of the Trans Union name because it constituted fair use, i.e., it accurately described defendants’ affiliation with plaintiff and the availability of products derived from plaintiff’s database. Significantly, defendants used only one Trans Union metatag, so it had not engaged in “cyber-stuffing, the practice of repeating a term numerous times in a website’s metatags in order to lure the attention of internet search engines.” This single Trans Union metatag did not misdirect users to defendants’ sites, as defendants’ sites were not even among the top fifty listings when the term “Trans Union” was searched on several popular search engines. The court did issue a preliminary injunction, however, against defendants’ use of the Trans Union logo and use of the “transunioncredit” domain names, finding that plaintiff had a “better than negligible” chance of proving both likelihood of confusion and dilution. Specifically, defendants’ “transunioncredit” websites posed a risk for initial-interest confusion. Internet users drawn to defendants’ sites by the “transunioncredit” domain names might end up purchasing credit reports from defendants instead. In contrast, the court denied plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction as to defendants’ “creditbureautransunion” domain names because, at this stage of the litigation, plaintiff had not demonstrated much of a likelihood of success on the merits of its infringement or dilution claims because these domain names were not sufficiently similar to the Trans Union name.