Intel Refiles Questionable Trademark Lawsuit Against Newsletter About Latin America
from the seriously? dept
Late last year, we wrote about the latest in an unfortunately long line of overreaching trademark lawsuits filed by Intel. Intel tends to act as if no one else can use the word Intel at all, leading it to get involved in legal disputes with companies in industries about as far away from Intel’s business as can be — including a travel agency and a maker of jeans. The dispute last year, was focused on the small producer of a newsletter about Latin America, which used the domain name LatinIntel.com. There was no way anyone would be confused by this site or think that it was somehow associated with Intel, even using my favorite “moron in a hurry” test.
So, we were happy, earlier this year, to get a report that Intel had dropped the lawsuit. Except… that turned out to not be exactly true. Intel got in touch quickly to insist that they had only dropped it because they planned to refile the lawsuit with much more detail to make their case. What Intel left out was the pretty serious skepticism the judge had expressed concerning their original filing:
It really is lacking in enough specificity which would demonstrate that there was confusion or that you’re even addressing the same markets. I mean, my understanding is that there may be no customer overlap at all in connection with this.
Intel, of course, shot back with the claim that this has nothing to do with likelihood of confusion, but it was really about dilution. Dilution is a more recent element of trademark law, which was not considered applicable for quite some time, but today has become more widely accepted, and keeps expanding in dangerous ways. It simply goes against the basic concept of trademark law — which is supposed to be about protecting consumers from buying a product that is falsely labeled. That’s why trademark law is limited to the areas where your trademark is actually being used in commerce. The judge’s point that there is no customer overlap should be all that matters here. At that point there is no trademark issue. At all.
But Intel has, in fact, now refiled the lawsuit, and tries to get around this claim by pointing out that both Intel and this newsletter have customers that are Fortune 500 companies. Seriously. And then it still claims there is customer confusion, despite the judge making it pretty clear that he didn’t believe there was any customer confusion at all:
I asked the spokesperson from Intel who had contacted us about the last post if he could offer an explanation of why it made sense for Intel to continue to pursue this lawsuit, and I got back the basic explanation for why dilution is considered trademark infringement — which didn’t answer the question I was asking. But it appears that Intel’s definition of dilution goes way beyond even the current (already troubling) concept of dilution in trademark law. The way Intel sets it up, no one can use the word “intel” even if it’s already a widely generic term in a totally different industry (as is the case with the newsletter). That makes no sense.
While I’m sure Intel’s lawyers would claim that they have to defend their trademark to avoid it being declared generic, that’s also a misrepresentation of trademark law. You do have to defend, but only in cases where there’s actual confusion or actual risk of dilution. Someone doing business with a term that is generic in that industry, which is about as far away from Intel’s industry as is possible, is not doing any harm, whatsoever, to Intel’s mark. Intel should have just dropped the case and left it alone.