June 01, 2004

No place like home

US: In TMI Inc v Maxwell, the Fifth Circuit has reversed a district court decision that found that the defendant's use of domain names featuring the plaintiff's mark for a criticism website violated the ACPA, the Federal Trademark Dilution Act and Texas anti-dilution law. The Fifth Circuit held that the non-commercial use of such a domain name for a criticism site is not infringing, even if the domain name does not convey the critical nature of the site.
Appellant Joseph Maxwell intended to buy a house from Appellee TMI, Inc., a company that builds houses under the name TrendMaker Homes. Unhappy with what he viewed as the salesperson’s misrepresentations about the availability of a certain model, Maxwell decided to create a website to tell his story. To this end, Maxwell registered an internet domain name – www.trendmakerhome.com – that resembled TMI’s TrendMaker Homes mark. During its existence, the site contained Maxwell’s story of his dispute with TMI, along with a disclaimer at the top of the home page indicating that it was not TMI’s site.

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