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UK court slaps reseller for metatag squatting

A first for Britain

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A Tyneside reseller has become the first company to be roasted by a UK court over trademark infringement in HTML 'meta' tags.

Mandata was ordered to pay 15,000 damages after including trademarks belonging to its rival Road Tech Computer Systems in its meta tags. It was also accused of writing the trademarks into the front page of the Mandata Web site 27 times in hidden text.

The High Court ordered Mandata to pay damages plus costs for both sides; a total of 80,000.

Meta tags are key words, invisible to the reader, that describe the content of Web pages to search engines. This is the first ruling of its kind on meta tags in the UK - although there have been several cases in the US.

Dominic Bray, a solicitor with Nicholson Graham & Jones who acted for Road Tech, said he was "delighted" with the outcome.

"I don't think anyone should be surprised by this outcome - it is a reflection of common sense and general trademark law," he said. "However, as the first decision in the English Court it provides clarification for everyone doing business on the Internet.

"The High Court has given a clear warning to anyone contemplating appropriating a competitor's trade marks and goodwill to attract business, that such activity will not be tolerated and damages will be awarded," he said.

According to Bray, Mandata used trademarks of Road Tech Computer Systems – from its Roadrunner software and Road Tech itself – for a minimum of four months last year.

But although the summary judgement found the company had infringed on trademarks, there was insufficient evidence to prove that trade had been diverted from the Road Tech site.

A Mandata representative said today: "A member of staff did something wrong, and we've corrected it," but refused to comment further. The company is claiming that at the time its site was constructed the trade marks were included "without the authority of any of the Mandata directors". ®

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