First Circuit Lifts Trademark Injunction to Make Way for Super Duck
By Miriam Weiler — Edited by Evie Breithaupt
Boston Duck Tours v. Super Duck Tours
First Circuit, June 18th, 2008, Nos. 07-2078, 07-2246
On June 18, the First Circuit lifted a preliminary injunction granted by the District Court of Massachusetts, which had enjoined Super Duck Tours, LLC (“Super Duck”) from using the phrase “duck tours” in its trade name and the cartoon of a duck in its logo. On July 2, 2007, Boston Duck Tours, LP (“Boston Duck”) filed a complaint in the district court alleging federal trademark infringement and unfair competition and seeking a preliminary injunction against Super Duck. The district court granted the injunction and Super Duck appealed.
The First Circuit held that the lower court clearly erred in concluding that Boston Duck was likely to succeed on the merits of its trademark infringement, by over-estimating the likelihood that use of the phrase and image would cause consumer confusion.
The court of appeals did not address the district court’s ruling regarding Super Duck’s purchase of the key word phrase “Boston duck tours” on Google. “Sponsored linking” or “keyword advertising” allows the purchaser of a keyword to link his or her website to the search engine’s results page with a highlighted link at the top of the page.
The district court found that Super Duck’s sponsored linking did not violate the injunction. It found that sponsored linking, however, does constitute “use” under the Lanham Act, which states that “a mark shall be deemed to be in use in commerce. . . (2) on services when it is used or displayed in the sale or advertising of services.” 15 U. S. C. §1127. The district court reasoned that the plain language of the statute and the majority of courts have considered sponsored linking “use.” (more…)