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Executives at Excite and Netscape are getting a little hot under the collar after they received a writ from Playboy Enterprises alleging they have infringed the smut service's trademarks. The adult entertainment company alleges that when Net users type the words 'Playboy' or 'Playmate' into Excite's search engine, the same search engine that also powers Netscape's Netcenter portal, it displays banner ads for rival hard-core pornographic Web sites. These ads allegedly "lure" Net users away from Playboy sites to other smutty sites, Playboy maintains. It also wants Excite and Netscape to stop directing users to other Excite-created adult entertainment directories, according to a report in USA Today. In effect, Playboy is attacking the practice of selling keywords by search engines. Since there is nothing stopping a company from buying a competitor's brand or product name, companies are now taking legal action to stop what they believe to be a breach of their trademark "Excite has hijacked and usurped [Playboy's] good will and reputation," the lawsuit states. "Excite's advertising activities are not neutral or lawful with respect to its misuse of the goodwill associated with Playboy's trademarks," it maintains. This is the second time in as many weeks that Excite has been issued with writ for alleged trademark infringements. A fortnight ago Estee Lauder, the cosmetics and fragrance giant filed a lawsuit against Excite and online cosmetics dealer, The Fragrance Counter (TFC), alleging infringement of its trademarks over the purchase of certain keywords (see Excite keyword selling practice challenged in court). A number of Estee Lauder subsidiaries also filed similar suits in France and Germany complaining of Excite's and TFC's conduct under the laws of those countries, the company said. The Estee Lauder company claims that Excite -- and TFC, which purchased the keywords -- are responsible for trademark infringement, false advertising and unfair competition. ®

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