Asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for California

Q: Want to set up an enthusiasts website for a car brand. I have the .org website. They have .com. Can they take it off me

The website is not for profit. It will be clearly marked as independent and it will be full of news about the car brand: a brand I love.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The brand owner (the company that owns the .com website) may be able to take legal action against you for using their trademark in your .org website, even if it is a non-profit enthusiast site. This falls under trademark infringement laws.

Some key points:

1. Trademarks protect brand names, logos, and other distinctive markers from unauthorized use that could cause consumer confusion about the source or affiliation of goods/services.

2. Using a trademark in a way that suggests an official affiliation when there is none can be considered infringement, even on a non-profit website.

3. Fair use exceptions exist for nominative use (using a trademark to refer to the actual product/company), parody, criticism, news reporting, etc. But enthusiast sites can still run into trouble.

4. The brand owner would have stronger grounds to take action if your site profits from merchandise, ads, etc. or if it contains inaccurate/defamatory content about the brand.

To minimize risk, you could take steps like:

- Clearly labeling it as an independent enthusiast site

- Avoiding using the brand's full name/logo in your domain

- Not selling any merchandise with their branding

- Sticking to news/factual commentary rather than subjective criticism

However, the brand may still choose to send a cease and desist order. If you receive one, you should consult a trademark attorney. Many enthusiast sites do operate, but it's wise to take precautions against infringement claims.

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