Search engine GoTo.com, which recently took legal action against Walt Disney Co. and Infoseek Corp. to protect its trademarked logo, received a blunt rebuke from Disney officials when it tried to negotiate a resolution with the two companies before filing its complaint, said GoTo.com president/CEO Jeffrey Brewer.
“At first they seemed to be inclined to want to have a productive discussion, but it ended where they said, 'You're going to have to sue us for us to change the logo,' and so they left us no other recourse but to do so,” Brewer said.
GoTo, Pasadena, CA, in February filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles requesting that the court require Disney, Burbank, CA, and Infoseek, Sunnyvale, CA, to discontinue using the logo for the Go Network, an Internet portal created by an alliance of the two companies. GoTo, whose logo predates Go Network by about a year, charges that the two green-light logos bear a “striking similarity.”
Rebecca Anderson, a spokeswoman for Disney's Buena Vista Internet Group, told DM News that GoTo's claims are baseless, adding that Disney intends to “vigorously” protect its rights to the Go Network logo. Disney spent a good part of last week touting the Go Network venture during its annual meeting in Seattle. The portal offers the entertainment leviathan revenue through advertising and e-commerce.
GoTo executives, who were already concerned about the similarity of the two companies' names, became more alarmed in early January when they read about Go Network's beta testing and pulled up the portal's logo online. Brewer said GoTo contacted Disney and Infoseek before Go Network's official launch, and met with executives from the two companies in Sunnyvale and Burbank. Disney officials indicated then that they did not expect the logos to cause confusion, Brewer said.
On Feb. 18, GoTo requested a hearing to get a preliminary injunction barring Go Network from using its logo. Brewer expects a hearing to take place sometime in the next two months.
Any subsequent legal action will pit privately held GoTo, a year-old search engine whose revenues Brewer put in the “multiple millions,” against two well-established companies whose combined sales reach many billions of dollars.
“[Disney] let us know that they had substantial legal resources on their side and they've been quite successful in the past with prosecuting trademark cases,” Brewer said. Disney holds a reputation for being fiercely protective of its own trademarks, especially the images of its cartoon characters.
The firms' different business models heighten Brewer's concerns about confusion. GoTo's engine at www.goto.com returns search results in order of how much advertisers in its directory pay for click-throughs to their sites. The amount each advertiser pays is listed next to its name.
In contrast to GoTo, which in effect makes money by persuading e-shoppers to leave its site, Go Network's www.go.com portal gives users broad content ranging from news, stock quotes and sports scores to shopping, horoscopes and banner ads. Its Infoseek search engine occupies a small area at the top of the page. Brewer said both GoTo and Go Network are harmed if consumers and advertisers confuse the companies, though he conceded that smaller GoTo is hurt worse.
“It's the principal distinction between GoTo and the portals, that we focus on search,” Brewer said. “We do nothing but search.”