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When Your Website Gets Shut Down (Trademark Infringement)

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

What to Know About Trademark Complaints

Few things are more disconcerting than getting an unexpected email from your website host or social media provider:

“We have received a complete trademark complaint alleging that trademark infringement is taking place on your account…”

You freeze. You re-read. The email goes on to explain that your website has been shut down pending a resolution of this trademark complaint. Sure enough, you check and your account has been suspended.

What is this? More importantly, what can be done? Read on.

Trademark Complaints

The internet has become a place where companies advertise, find clients, and sell product using everything from social media accounts to websites, LinkedIn pages, and Facebook Groups. But all of this online activity has a downside - it has led to rampant copying, plagiarism, counterfeiting, and all manner of ripping off other people’s businesses.

This is especially true with trademarks. The online environment makes it easy to pluck someone else’s brand name and use it for your own website or social media account. Thankfully, most web hosts now have a process in place for trademark owners to report and take action against this kind of activity. This is great if you are a rightful trademark owner, but what if you are on the receiving end? What if you didn’t do anything wrong, but your competitor is being overly aggressive?

The Complaint Process

The trademark complaint process exists so that rightful trademark owners can get websites and social media accounts shut down that are infringing their trademark. But what if your company rightfully owns a registered trademark? Or what if your business has nothing to do with the competitor who has complained about you? Or what if the competitor who complained about you is headquartered in a different country?

The good news is that most trademark complaint processes provide an opportunity for the accused to respond. This response is often known as a counter-notice.

What To Know About Filing a Counter-Notice

There are a few things to know before filing a trademark counter-notice. Intellectual property disputes via the internet are still relatively new and web hosts are actively figuring out the best way to handle them. However, at the time of this writing, here is some helpful information:

First, every web host has their own process for handling trademark complaints. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, GoDaddy, etc. each have their own rules, deadlines, and instructions. Sometimes there are tricky things buried in the fine print, so fully reading the directions can be key.

Second, most web hosts are not interested in acting like a courtroom. This means that web hosts are typically more interested in protecting themselves than resolving complex legal disputes. Business owners may be tempted to try to argue their case as if they were in court, but this is not always the most helpful strategy with a web host that is merely ticking boxes on an internal procedure.

Third, because web hosts are not interested in resolving disputes themselves, they sometimes try to push the parties towards litigation. To facilitate litigation, some web hosts will not allow the accused to file a counter-notice unless the company signs a statement promising to submit to a specific state's court system. This might not be a big deal if your business is already located in said state, but it can be a huge deal if you are out-of-state or in a different country.

In summary, there is a lot to think about when a website goes down due to a trademark complaint. Fortunately, a good attorney can help with getting things sorted out and getting the website back online.

Thanks for reading the Bevel Law Blog! While this information is hopefully helpful to you, nothing in this blog is intended to be legal advice. Always consult a lawyer before making any legal decisions based on topics in this blog.

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