Fair use of trademark in domain name

by Stephen on July 14, 2010

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. v. Tabari: The Tabaris were auto brokers who used domain names “buy-a-lexus.com” and “buyorleaselexus.com” to advertise for business. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. filed suit for trademark infringement. Miraculously, the Tabaris stood up to the deep pocket corporation, and despite losing in the trial court, prevailed on appeal. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Tabaris’ use of the word “Toyota” in their domain names was fair use, because the web sites did not suggest endorsement or sponsorship by Toyota, and used no more of Toyota’s trademark than was necessary to denote the fact that the Tabaris specialized in brokering Toyotas. In other words, there could be no “confusion as to source,” the linchpin of a trademark infringement case.

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