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Hidden code may be stealing your customers. (A Public Service of Davidson Law Firm).

Hidden code, better known as a meta tag, may be diverting your potential customers. What's a meta tag? The meta tag is a piece of code in a web page that includes a "keyword" list. Meta tags will not appear when a user views the webpage, but can still be picked up by a search engine. The functionality of a meta tag comes when a computer user types in "keywords" and a search engine uses the words to find files and documents on the Internet. The meta tag acts as a placeholder for "keywords" which are indexed automatically by search engines. The problem occurs if a website's "keyword" list contains your registered trademark, or words which users would immediately associate with your business. This is called "meta tag theft." The 9th Circuit recently held that a former Playmate crossed the line in using "PMOY '81" on her website's wall paper. The court held that anything more than nominal use to describe oneself served to dilute and infringe upon the trademark. (Playboy v. Welles)

Meta tag theft occurs when a website owner uses the brand names or trademarks of other organizations or competitors to attract traffic to their site.

While some search engines are implementing anti-meta theft software to help avoid such infringement, consider the following recommendations to police your trademark and/or to make sure that you aren't infringing upon the trademark of another:

1) Trademark owners should run frequent Internet searches on multiple search engines to see if your trademark is being infringed upon through the use of meta tags or even by cyber-squatters who register your mark as their Internet domain name. Caterpillar, Inc., maker of heavy equipment, was successful in its recent lawsuit against TeleScan for trade mark infringement. A federal court held that TeleScan's use of the Caterpillar trademarks in its domain names amounted to trading upon the goodwill and fame associated with Caterpillar for TeleScan's own profit. (Caterpillar v. TeleScan)

2) When putting together a website, don't register keywords with a search engine service that are identical or similar to third party trademarks. To run a search for trademarks, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office at www.uspto.gov.

3) Contracts with web designers should include an indemnity for loss and damage that your business might suffer in connection with unauthorized use of trademarks in website pages and meta tags.

With the explosive growth of the Internet comes more ways in which intellectual property can be silently hijacked. Business owners have to stay on their electronic toes to protect their business interests.

Davidson Law Firm

Cantrell at State

Little Rock, Arkansas 72203

374-9977

www.davidsonlawfirm.com

Penny Collins Choate, J.D.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:illegal meta tags
Comment:Hidden code may be stealing your customers. (A Public Service of Davidson Law Firm).(illegal meta tags)
Author:Choate, Penny Collins
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 20, 2003
Words:448
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