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Brookfield Communs., Inc. v. W. Coast Entm't Corp. - 174 F.3d 1036 (9th Cir. 1999)

Rule:

A plaintiff is entitled to a preliminary injunction in a trademark case when he demonstrates either (1) a combination of probable success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable injury or (2) the existence of serious questions going to the merits and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor. To establish a trademark infringement claim under Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1114, or an unfair competition claim under Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1125(a), the claimant must establish that the company against which the claim is brought is using a mark confusingly similar to a valid, protectable trademark of the claimant. 

Facts:

Brookfield Communications, Inc. (Brookfield) designed a program to research movies through a database. When West Coast Entertainment Corporation (West Coast), which had previously registered same name as Brookfield's product as its domain name, decided to publicly launch its site, Brookfield filed Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S. §§ 1051 et seq., action seeking to enjoin West Coast's use of site. The district court found for West Coast, concluding that it had priority and furthermore, that there was no likelihood of confusion between the names. Brookfield sought appellate review.

Issue:

Did the federal district court err in denying Brookfield a preliminary injunction?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and granted the preliminary injunction to Brookfield, holding that there was a likelihood of confusion. The appellate court held that despite domain name registration occurring prior to program's release, the issue of time did not arise until there was a likelihood of confusion. Further, court held that both the embedded use of the name and the site name relating to movie search databases were sufficiently similar to create a likelihood of confusion.

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