FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CBS LOSES INTERNET DOMAIN NAME DISPUTE IN FEDERAL COURT
Los Angeles, CA—February 22, 2000—The Network Network company, a small computer training, consulting and systems networking organization, has won its fight in the Federal court to retain its rights to keep its website address, www.tnn.com after facing a two year battle with CBS and The Nashville Network, CBS’s country music cable company.
“Taking on a media giant like CBS is clearly not an easy task, but we have used TNN as our trademark since at least 1989, and registered www.tnn.com in early 1994. Now, with the merging of television and the Internet, web domain names which match a television or cable company’s call letters have become valued,” said Clive Hermann, President and founder of The Network Network.
CBS (through their wholly owned subsidiary) in their filings with the court claimed that the domain name was rightfully theirs because users of the Internet would go to the www.tnn.com website and confuse it with The Nashville Network. CBS also claimed that TNN was a famous mark used exclusively to identify The Nashville Network. CBS argued that without the domain name they are “completely eliminated” from identifying their goods and services on the Internet and that puts them at a “critical disadvantage” in the “highly competitive television industry.”
United States District Judge, Nora M. Manella did not accept CBS’s argument, concluding that “Nashville’s [The Nashville Network] claim may be reduced to the argument that because its three initial registered mark [i.e. “TNN”] is now famous, and would be the most convenient website name for The Nashville Network, it should be entitled to enjoin The Network Network from using the same three initials as part of the domain name it registered nearly half a dozen years ago and has been using continuously ever since—a domain name based on Network’s prior use in commerce of the same three initials since 1989. The fact that Nashville missed its opportunity to select the domain name it would now like to have is not sufficient to state a claim of infringement under the federal trademark law, particularly where, as here there can be no genuine risk of confusion—initial or otherwise—by any consumer of reasonable prudence, and no argument that Network has sought or is now seeking to trade on Nashville’s good name.”
Hermann said, “I can certainly understand why CBS would think it crucial to have the www.tnn.com domain name. Television networks are already using the web not only to advertise their television shows, but also to provide additional content coordinated with shows being broadcast simultaneously. It is not difficult to see a time when television shows will be broadcast over the Internet. There is no doubt that it would be valuable for CBS to have a website for The Nashville Network with the same domain name as The Nashville Network’s call letters. But simply because they are a big company and very much want something which belongs to us doesn’t necessarily mean they are entitled to it. We are not “cybersquatters.” We have been using both the TNN trademark and the domain name for years without objection, and the website has become crucial to our business, as well.
“Usually, companies in very different industries are entitled to use the same trademark, because the possibility of confusion is slight. We feel that computer network consulting and country music programming are about as different as could possibly be. Nobody should think we are “The Nashville Network” anymore than people think that Yale Locks and Yale University are associated.
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See attached Backgrounder.