Framing, Linking, and Metatags:Variation Three -- Metatags

When Sharon was working with the web designer to produce her site, sheindicated that she wanted people looking for travel services to be ableto find her. The designer told her that if someone were searching for travelservices, the search engine would recognize a lot of the information onher site as travel information, and therefore that her site would makeit onto the list the searcher received. However, the designer cautionedher, there was no guarantee that she would be among the first listed, andmany searchers only browse a page or two of the results generated by thesearch engines.  To avoid her site getting dropped to the bottom ofthe list, he suggested that he insert special keywords into the underlyingcode of her site, indicating popular travel search terms -- such as otherairlines and popular vacation destinations. That way, someone searchingfor information on those airlines and destinations would also retrievea listing for Sharon’s site. [Example]

Northeast Airlines has filed suit against Sharon for using their namein this hidden code, called "meta tags," alleging unfair competition,trademark infringement, and trademark dilution. Northeast claims that Sharon’suse of their trademark without permission infringes on their rights inthe mark and confuses consumers into thinking that Sharon’s service isassociated with their airline. In addition, they claim that Sharon’s unauthorizeduse of the mark blurs the image in the minds of consumers that they haveinvested much in cultivating.

In deciding whether Sharon is or should be vulnerable to suit by NortheastAirlines, you may find it helpful to sample the resources set forth below. Then, if you are interested in discussing the issues raised by thisproblem and the associated materials, go to the virtual classroom.


JoeLiu, "Overview of Trademark Law." Much of the debate concerningthe legitimacy of metatags involves the trademark law.  If you areunfamiliar with this body of law and would like a brief introduction, clickhere.

MichelleSpaulding, "Misappropriation" (1998). One of the doctrinesthat has been invoked by the litigants in cases of this sort is the lawof "misappropriation." If you are unfamiliar with this body oflaw and would like a brief introduction, click here.

Martin J.Elgison and James M. Jordan III, "TrademarkCases Arise from Meta-Tags, Frames. Disputes Involve Search-Engine Indexes,Web Sites Within Web Sites, As Well As Hyperlinking.": Short article with brief summaries of cases and issues. Framing: Washington Post v. TotalNews. Linking: Shetland Times, Ticketmaster v. Microsoft. Metatags: Nat'l Envirotech v. Insituform Technologies, Playboy Enters. v. Calvin Designer Label, Oppedahl & Larson v. Advanced Concepts.

Meeka Jun, "MetaTags: The Case of the Invisible Infringer.": Short article discussing Playboy case and mentioning briefly Insituform and Oppedahl & Larson

John M. Mrsich, Meeka Jun, "TermsYou Need to Know: Search Engines.": Description of how search engines work; terms used; and distinction among search engines, search directories, and search managers.

Guy Alvarez, "ABeginner’s Guide to Search Engines and Directories.": Includes links to examples of each.

"Calif.Judge Orders Site Operators to Cease Using Playboy Name, Marks.": Very brief piece reporting resolution of Playboy case.

David J. Loundy, "HiddenCode Sparks High-Profile Lawsuit.": Detailed synopsis of Oppedahl & Larson case.

WendyR. Leibowitz, "FirmSues for Invisible Use of Its Trademark on ‘Net. Partner Protests Use ofHis Law Firm’s Name in ‘Meta-Tags,’ or Web Site Codes.": Short piece discussing Oppedahl & Larson and critical trademark distinction in metatag cases.

Tim Jackson, "TheCase of the Invisible Ink.": Alternative view of Oppedahl & Larson case.

John Fontana, "TrademarkTrickery: In scam, search engines duped into diverting queries to competitiveWeb sites.": Opinionated article discussing Insituform and Playboy cases.

"HiddenUse of Trademarks On Web Site May Infringe.": Discussing Playboy injunction.


Insituform Technologies Inc. v. Nat’l Envirotech GroupL.L.C. [Civil Action 97-2064 (E.D. La.); settled Aug. 27, 1997]: No opinion issued. See resources and links for information.

Oppedahl & Larson v. Advanced Concepts [CivilAction 97-3-1592 (D. Colo.) filed July 23, 1997]: No opinion issued. See resources and links for information.

PlayboyEnterprises Inc. v. Calvin Designer Label [DC Ncalif, No. C 97-3204;9/8/97]: Injunction order issued


Judge Enjoins Web Site's Use of Infringing Meta-Tag: Article discussing result of Playboy case. Also contains links to complaint and order issued in the case.

Back to Problem
To see an example of metatag keywords, click on the following two links. For each one, when the document has entirely finished loading, go to View Page Source or View Document Source on your browser's menu bar. A new window will come up, revealing the HTML code used to create the Web page. Remaining near the top of the document, scroll to the right until you see meta name="keywords" content=. The information following "content" will be the keywords the website operator intends search engines to utilize. For these two links, note the companies listed.


Variation One: Framing

Variation Two: Linking


Review problem

Virtual Classroom