Nissan Motor Co. v. Nissan Computer Corp.

Internet Free Speech — Use of Brand Names
Press Releases:
Case Description: 

A federal district judge decided that Uzi Nissan did not infringe the trademark of the Nissan auto companies by creating a web site for the Nissan Computer Company at the addresses and, but that the use of the domain name for ads for automaobile products was infringement, and also that use of the domain name for advertising and for ciriticism of Nissan Motor Co. diluted Nissan's trademark. As a remedy, the judge allowed Uzi Nissan to keep his domain names, but forbade him from including any advertising AND from including anything critical of Nissan Motor. Public Citizen argued, in an amicus brief filed with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, that once advertising was forbidden on the website it became noncommercial and hence beyond the reach of the federal trademark laws, that, in any event, neither the First Amendment nor the trademark laws would tolerate an injunction barring use of the Nissan name in a domain name for a website that criticizes Nissan Motor. Public Citizen then assisted with the response, to help the respondent successfully avoid Supreme Court review over the 9th Circuit's decision.

Questions presented:

  1. Whether a third party’s use of an Internet domain name consisting solely of a famous trademark as a gateway to a website containing disparaging commentary about the trademark owner constitutes commercial speech that may be enjoined under the Lanham Act.
  2. Whether a court can enjoin a third party’s use of an Internet domain name consisting solely of another party’s famous trademark without violating the First Amendment.
  3. Whether a third party infringes a trademark by using that mark as an Internet domain name to divert consumers looking for the trademark owner’s products to a website that instead offers or promotes unrelated products or services.