Linking, Framing, and Metatagging
Oppedahl & Larson v. Advanced Concepts, United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Civil Action Number 97-CV-1592
The plaintiff patent law firm filed suit against five defendants claiming that the defendants' use of the plaintiff's marks as metatags infringed and diluted the value of those marks. The marks were not visible on the defendants' web sites but were used again and again as metatags. Although it is not clear why the defendants chose the plaintiff's marks as metatags, it is assumed that they were seeking an increase in traffic to their web sites. After answers were filed, the case settled through various agreements and stipulations which precluded further use of the plaintiff's marks by the defendants.
In this case, the plaintiff, a patent law firm, claimed the defendants' use of the plaintiff's trademark "OPPEDAHL & LARSON" in their web site metatags infringed and diluted the firm's trademark and violated unfair competition statutes. In its Complaint, the plaintiff, which operates the web site, "www.patents.com," alleged that it expended substantial money and time in developing and promoting its trademark "OPPEDAHL & LARSON." According to the plaintiff, as a result of its efforts, the trademark has realized substantial goodwill and is now identified exclusively with the law firm.
Although plaintiff's trademark was not visible on any of these web sites to the naked eye, the source document revealed that the trademark appeared in hidden text on average eight times in each web site. According to the plaintiff, this invisible use of its trademark misleads and confuses consumers by suggesting that the defendants' web sites are connected somehow with the plaintiff.
After various defendants filed answers, the case settled piecemeal. On December 19, 1997, the court allowed a Joint Motion for Entry of Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction filed by the plaintiff and the defendants Robert Welch and Advanced Concepts wherein the defendants were permanently enjoined from using "OPPEDAHL & LARSON" or those terms singularly in Web pages without the authorization of the plaintiff. On that same day, the court also allowed a Joint Motion for Entry of Permanent Injunction filed by the plaintiff and the defendants, MSI Marketing, Inc., Professional Web site Development and Internet Business Services. These defendants also agreed not to use the trademark or terms singularly in any "metatags" without plaintiff's permission. Since these defendants also offer leased services to web page owners and operators, the content of which the parties agreed these defendants did not control, the Order specifically did not apply to the uncontrolled leased content. However, the defendants agreed that if the plaintiff requested information regarding a lessee who was using plaintiff's trademark or terms, such information must be provided.