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EFF: Federal Court Reverses in Taxes.com Web Publishing Case

PRESS RELEASE
March 28, 2003
Responds to Electronic Frontier Foundation Request

Oakland, CA - A federal court today agreed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that the tax problem help website Taxes.com should not be forced to rewrite truthful information in order to appear less prominently in search engine results.

"The court's decision to reverse an earlier ruling on Taxes.com restores the balance between trademark law and the First Amendment right to publish truthful information," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann.

On March 22, 2002, the court had ordered Taxes.com to alter web pages that criticize J.K. Harris, one of its chief competitors. The court had reasoned that because these pages showed up prominently in search engine results for "J.K. Harris" they violated trademark law. The court cited a doctrine called "initial interest confusion," which addresses improper diversion of customers.

Many commercial search engines review text from websites as part of ranking the websites in search results, so Taxes.com's mentions of J.K. Harris caused the Taxes.com website to appear in search results for "J.K. Harris."

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."
Links:

For this release:
http://www.eff.org/IP/20030328_taxes-com_pr.php

Court ruling in Taxes.com case:
http://www.eff.org/IP/20030328_taxes-com_amended_prelim_injunc.php

EFF brief in Taxes.com case:
http://www.eff.org/IP/20020710_taxes_com_amicus.html
Contact:

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org
+1 415 436-9333 x123 (office)
About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/

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