Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

U-Haul, 1-800 Contacts Join Anti-Pop-Up Bandwagon

from the trespassing? dept

It seems that Gator isn't alone in pissing off companies by putting popups of competitors over certain sites. U-Haul and 1-800 Contacts both have decided to sue some company named Where-U that places additional pop ups on their sites, that link to competitors of U-Haul and 1-800 Contacts. While I think any spyware company that uses pop-ups deserves to be sued just for being annoying, I'm not convinced that what they're doing is actually illegal.

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  • identicon
    Oliver Wendell Jones, 15 Oct 2002 @ 9:35am

    You don't see why it's illegal?

    If you are paying for a website to display your ad, and someone else is interrupting that ad and replacing it with a competitor's ad, you're essentially paying for your competitor's ad.

    Imagine if someone created a TV set-top box that let everyone (legally) get a channel for free that would normally be a pay channel, but in return it was going to replace all the ads on all the other channels with the ads of their choosing.

    The people who are watching the TVs sure aren't going to care, but the people who paid for the ads that you were supposed to be watching (and that paid for the programming on all those other channels) sure have a right to demand a portion of their money back (i.e., if 20% of consumers have this particular set-top box, then they should only have to pay 80% of the standard rate for commercials).

    It's even worse if instead of just random ad replacement it's intentionally replacing an ad for a hauling company (U-Haul) with a competitors (Where-U), as appears to be the case here.

    This reminds me of the cursor-jacking that Comet Cursor was (is?) involved with and the various online airline ticket purchase sites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 15 Oct 2002 @ 9:46am

      Re: You don't see why it's illegal?

      Yeah, that's what Gator got in trouble for doing, but I think this is a little different. This is for when people go visit, suddenly they get a pop up for some other rental van place or something. So it's not covering up another ad, it's just popping up when you visit a competitors' site.

      In some ways, it's similar to the situation in Silicon Valley right next to Oracle's headquarters. There's a billboard right on the highway as you pass the offices that always seems to be rented out to an Oracle competitor. Right now I think it's IBM. However, I remember a few years back when Informix had it, and they painted it to read: "You just passed Oracle. So did we."

      If anything, I think all pop up ads should be illegal for "trespassing" - but I doubt that's what's going on here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2002 @ 11:31am

        Re: You don't see why it's illegal?

        I think the claim in this case is straightforward trademark infringement, or contributory infringement on the part of the popup company. If I've paid to have my trademark advertised, and you've arranged to have someone else's trademark there instead, and they're a competitor, then that's pretty classic infringement on my mark. The difference between this and the Oracle billboard is that the competitors don't claim to *be* Oracle, just to be better than Oracle.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris Falco, 15 Oct 2002 @ 10:17pm


    remember all the rules for cybersquatting domain names, and how many people had to turn over their domains to copyright holders becuase their names were close to the original and would cause consumer confusion (although many times that was BS, is obiously not ford).

    I would think placing and ad over a competing website would cause consumer confusion, especially because many people don't realise the ad is not coming from the website they are visiting... hey that sounds like a really good way to ban popups completely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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