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Trademark law limited to commerce

A vanity search on the Internet may result in some dismaying hits. But it is not the basis for a federal lawsuit.

The Seventh Circuit on Sept. 30 affirmed the dismissal of a Wisconsin woman’s lawsuit against Yahoo! and assorted other internet companies for failure to state a claim.

The plaintiff argued that, because of her humanitarian efforts and poetry, her name has commercial value.

But the court disagreed: “While [plaintiff’s] goals may be passionate and well-intentioned, they are not commercial. And the good name that a person garners in such altruistic feats is not what sec. 43 of the Lanham Act protects.”

Instead, the court found the purpose of the law is to protect those whose commercial interests have been harmed by a competitor.

Case: Stayart v. Yahoo! Inc., No. 09-3379

For a full analysis of the case, see the Oct. 11 issue of Wisconsin Law Journal.

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