In a decision that could prompt scrutiny of Internet search engines and online advertisers, a federal appeals court Wednesday reinstated a trademark infringement lawsuit by Playboy Enterprises against Netscape Communications.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Chicago-based adult entertainment company could proceed with its case against the Mountain View, California-based Netscape, which used words such as "playboy" and "playmate" in online search engines to link to advertisements for adult-themed rivals. Playboy argued the links tarnished and diluted its brand name by associating its trademarks with inferior products.
"Playboy" and "playmate" were included in a list of about 400 words that Netscape's search engine used to identify people who were likely interested in buying adult-themed merchandise. Other words included "sex" and the names of certain body parts. People who typed in those words would receive banner ads for numerous adult-themed sites that were not associated with Playboy.
Playboy is suing Netscape for financial damages "well into the seven figures" and hopes the case will set a precedent, said attorney Barry G. Felder, who represents Playboy.
News source: CNN