Skip to main content

"Visa" Torn From Dictionary by Credit Card Company

November 21, 2002

"Visa" Torn From Dictionary by Credit Card Company

Language and Travel Site Appeals Forced Name Change

Las Vegas, Nevada - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today appealed a court ruling stripping the name "visa" from the evisa.com website and domain.

In October 2002, credit card giant Visa convinced a Las Vegas federal court to prevent the small business JSL Corp. from using the term "evisa" and the domain "evisa.com" for its website offering travel, foreign language, and other multilingual applications and services. The court ruled that the website--run by Joe Orr from his apartment-- "diluted" Visa's trademark, even though the site uses the word "visa" in its ordinary dictionary definition, not in relation to credit card services.

"Apple Computer, no matter how famous it becomes, cannot restrict companies from using the word 'apple' to refer to the fruit," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Yet the court held that the Visa credit card company can restrict the ability of Americans to use the word 'visa' when they offer travel-related information and services."

Tom Moore of Tomlinson Zisko LLP will join EFF in representing Orr in the case.

"The order simply doesn't address the fact that 'visa' is a common English word," said Orr, who has moved the website to a new address (www.3dtree.com). "My evisa.com site had 20,000-30,000 people visiting for free travel visa information, computer training, and foreign language learning. It has nothing to do with credit cards or financial services."

"Having lifted its name from the dictionary, Visa cannot now claim ownership of the word," added Cohn.

Evisa.com has been on the web since 1997. The name came from Orr's English conversational school in Japan called Eikaiwa Visa ("Eikaiwa" means "English conversation" in Japanese).

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will likely hear the case in Spring 2003.
Links:

For this release:
http://www.eff.org/Cases/Visa_v_JSL/20021121_eff_pr.html

For more information on Visa v. JSL case:
http://www.eff.org/Cases/Visa_v_JSL/

JavaScript license information