J.K. Harris v. Taxes.com Litigation

This case involved a trademark spat between two competing websites that provided tax consulting services.

On March 22 2002 a federal district court ordered Taxes.com to alter web pages that criticize J.K. Harris its competitor. The court reasoned that the content of the web pages caused them to show up prominently in search engine results for "J.K. Harris " and thereby infringed J.K. Harris' trademark. In arriving at this decision the court cited a doctrine called "initial interest confusion " which addresses improper diversion of customers.

This ruling represented the first instance where a court ordered a website to change the textual content of a web page based on the assumption that the text somehow caused the page to appear too prominently in search results for a competitor's trademark.

EFF filed an amicus brief with the court pointing out that the information on the pages was completely truthful and useful to consumers and asked it to reconsider its ruling. In its revised ruling the court embraced EFF's arguments holding that using a competitor's name in the course of conveying truthful information does not violate trademark law. The ruling pointed out that: "While the evidence submitted to the Court demonstrates that Defendants' web site does contain frequent references to J.K. Harris these references are not gratuitous; rather Defendants' web site refers to J.K. Harris by name in order to make statements about it."

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