AOL, rather than fixating on building business and staying relevant post Time-Warner, is suing search and display platform provider Advertise.com for trademark infringement and unfair competition. Furthermore, the company is also partly responsible for the near-done sale of the domain name Ad.com for a reported $1.4 million falling through, leading to the seller of the domain name subsequently suing the buying party, says DomainNameWire.
But first lawsuits first.
Advertise.com, which was purchased by ABCsearch.com earlier this year and rebranded as such a few months ago, is a variation on AOL-owned Advertising.com, the beleaguered Internet company claims. In legalese, that translates as follows:
“Advertise.com recently commenced use of the virtually identical and confusingly similar designation Advertise.com and design in connection with the same and complimentary services as those offered by Plaintiffs under their federally-registered Advertising.com name and marks and their Ad.com name and marks.”
Update: looks like Advertise.com sued AOL first (August 17, 2009)
A search of the USPTO database shows that AOL does in fact have three registered trademarks for Advertising.com, but all are design trademarks, which means they stand little chance of exercising trademark rights over something as generic as the domain name advertise.com. Granted, the logo looks vaguely similar, but ‘virtually identical and confusing’ it ain’t.
Note that AOL doesn’t even effectively market Advertising.com as a business unit anymore – although it may soon recommence doing just that – and redirects the domain name to its Platform-A website instead (AOL rebranded it to the name of this whole-owned subsidiary in April last year and now prefers AOL Advertising as the overarching denominator).
So why would anyone confuse Advertise.com for an AOL property? It just doesn’t make any sense to try and claim ownership over any domain name with a variation on the word ‘advertising’ in it. What’s next? Ads.com? Advertisement.com? In the court documents, embedded below, AOL even boasts the fact that Advertise.com has only about 25,000 unique visitors per month, so what’s really at stake here?
The second case is even more bizarre: although often used in its communication, Ad.com is apparently not a trademark owned by AOL, although the company has filed an application for it in the past. But that domain name is actually owned by a Marcos Guillen, who recently sold it to Directi and Skenzo for $1.4 million. Well, almost sold it, because the deal fell through after all, according to industry watchers due to the fact that the mark has not yet acquired distinctiveness for any of the applicants – including AOL – following a recent examination. Guillen has now filed a lawsuit against Directi and Skenzo for backing out of its auction purchase of Ad.com, seeking $1.4 million, prejudgment interest, and/or damages according to proof.