We recently had a customer come to us with a trademark infringement issue online. A large, corporate competitor was utilizing their name in Meta data of their web site on different pages. In addition to infringement by the competitor, my customer’s name was a common use of words like “Cheap Auto Parts” that was stuffed in their competitor’s meta data. Our customer never “officially” trademarked their name, but had been able to show prior use of their name for almost 10 years online. Another interesting piece of evidence was that the competitor was also using other competitor names in meta to rank for their names in search.
Now, isn’t online trademark, copyright and litigation issues fun? Who really knows the answers?
Trademark Productions was retained for this case as a material witness and has been called in for others as well as technical software and SEO experts. This case in particular is very interesting and is still being played out.
Another court has ruled that a websites’ use of a competitor’s mark in meta tags can create a “likelihood of confusion” sufficient to support a trademark infringement claim under the Lanham Act. In Deltek, Inc., v. Iuvo Systems, Inc. Software company Deltek alleged that competitor Iuvo had, among other things, infringed upon Deltek’s trademarks by using them in the meta tags of the iuvosystems.com website. Deltek sought a preliminary injunction against this and other uses of Deltek’s marks on Iuvo’s site. A federal court in Virginia granted Deltek’s motion, finding that Iuvo’s “use of Deltek’s trademarks as meta tags may … create a likelihood of confusion.” This case indicates that caution should be used when considering the use of a competitor’s mark in a website meta tag.
So if this is to be used as an example, it is my suggestion to be careful in how you tag your website code for optimization purposes. It is easy enough for an SEO Firm like ours to pick out meta data on a website and show where you could be misleading “internet traffic and search engines” to your website by using competitors trademarked terms.