Brookfield Communications, Inc. V. West Coast Entertainment Corporation
In the contemporary world, most of us in the business law field have come across the case between Brookfield Communications, Inc. And West Coast Entertainment Corporation, which revolved around the infringement of the trading rights via the internet. In the case, Brookfield Communications was the plaintiff who accused The West Coast of using their website domain “movie buff” for their business and hence trading with the same. The case was once heard at the district court level which the Brookfield Company did not succeed in their quest to place an injunction over the use of the domain and the Meta tags that West Coast utilized in the name of the “Movie Buff.” In their relentless move, Brookfield went ahead to file an appeal to the court of appeal for the appellate hearing since they believed that the act carried out by the defendant was quite a threat to the very business they had started. The court of appeal found the claims of the plaintiff valid and therefore overruled the judgment of the district court and offered a reprimand of the same. The West Coast Corporation was now charged with the responsibility of not using the name “Movie Buff” anywhere, either as a domain or in the Meta tags used by the company.
On March 10, 1999, Brookfield Corporation who is the plaintiff filed a claim to the court seeking an injunction of The West Coast Corporation from using their trademark in their business. As at this point, the Brookfield Company felt that they were the sole owners of this trademark and that the utilization of this trademark by other parties would be going against the Lanham Act. Brookfield was selling the software that was designed to be a platform for searching for the various movies, actors, upcoming events, movie directors among other celebrity news. As at then, the company was using the domain name, ‘moviebluff.com’ for which West Coast Corporation had acquired the same domain for its meta tags and was using to circulate its movies as well. Brookfield saw this as an impending threat to the success of the business and had to file this case to protect its trademark and internet domain.
Brookfield communication’s injuries
The company perceived that the act carried out by West Coast Corporation has dangerous effect of ruining their business. At first, they termed as an act of making deviating their customers from their website to their site is deemed to reduce the consumer traffic on their website. Additionally, the usage of the trademark would give an opening to the west coast to have an unfair competitive advantage as outlined in the Lanham Act where it was tantamount to the infringement of the trademark of their business.
Brookfield Communications claim
Brookfield contended that it was the first original user of the mark and makes it operational in the market. It goes ahead to recount that the use of this logo by the west coast corporation is a violation and infringement of his their rights to fair competition. The company, therefore, launched a claim for an injunction to the West Coast Corporation for using their domain to transact business for this will make them lose their customers unfairly.
In this case, Brookfield Communications who is the plaintiff has to prove that the Lanham Act has been violated, and these rules are as follows.
- The usage of another party’s trademark or internet website for business gains without their permission is tantamount to the infringements of the rights of the party concern
- The original user of a mark is that party that registers and makes the trademark operational in the first instance before anyone does.
- The malicious misguiding of the customers for selfish gain in any industry results in unfair competition which is against the law.
The plaintiff in this stance has claimed that the defendant has infringed its rights by using its trademark without its consent. Additionally, the fact that the he is the original user of the mark makes him the real sole owner of the trademark and the use by another party constitute unfair competition which against the Lanham Act. The act is stipulated to guide the various business persons and entities on how they should relate and have their rights protected as well. For a fair competition to be realized in the technological business industry there is the need for strict adherence to the law and dangerous actions consequences for the violators.
The plaintiff also claimed that the use of the trademark name by West Coast Corporation for their Meta tags and the various links that the customers would want to reach them was a strict violation of the Lanham Act. This notion was because it gave the defendant the opportunity actually to use the goodwill of the plaintiff in sourcing for a larger clientele base. This concept to Brookfield was quite unfair and was substantial for forming a profound lawsuit for the same.
West Coast Corporation on the other hand came out with two strong arguments. Firstly, that they were the first and the initial users of the trademark hence under the Lanham Act they are the senior users of this trademark. The second was that the company was using the name ‘Movie Buff’ for the purpose that would not infringe the trademark of Brookfield Corporation in their line of operations. Additionally, the west coast had been using the name movie buff on various occasions that was not in line with what the Brookfield was using.
In the contemporary society, the use of Meta tags and the similar domain has severe effects as regards the flow of customers. The Lanham act at this point needed to be highly scrutinized with keen inference on the real world as opposed to the virtual internet world. In this prospect, it was the duty of the court to look at the economic and financial impact this move by West coast would have on the Brookfield Company.
The plaintiff on its side filed two strong claims that west coast had to ensure that they stop using the trademark at any point of sale. Furthermore, they never wanted west coast to include the name ‘Movie Buff’ in any meta tags since this would deviate their customer traffic to from their website to the west coast website.
The court of appeal of the United States found the defendant guilty as charged and granted the injunction to the accused. West coast would now not publish any document or link using the trademark name ‘Movie Bluff’ for this was a violation of the rights of the plaintiff as outlined in the Lanham Act. The ground for this verdict was that even if the defendant registered the trademark in 1996, the plaintiff registered the name in 1997 and started using it immediately. West coast only started using the name in 1998 when Brookfield had already begun using it. So, in this case, Brookfield would be the senior user. Additionally, the use of the name by the west coast as a Meta tag would lead to initial interest confusion which is a violation according to Lanham Act.