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AOL Settles Trademark Dispute with Playboy

SAN FRANCISCO – Internet provider America Online settled a trademark dispute with Playboy Enterprises Inc. after an appeals court backed Playboy in litigation dating back five years, an official said..

“A settlement has been reached on this pending litigation,” said Nicholas Graham, a spokesman for AOL, a Dulles, Virginia-based unit of Time Warner Inc. “The terms of the settlement are not disclosable.”

Playboy sued Excite Inc. and Netscape, which used Excite technology, claiming those Internet companies had infringed the trademark on “playboy” and “playmate”. AOL now owns Netscape.

Playboy objected to the inclusion of those two terms in a list of 400 words, many of them explicit sexual expressions, that would trigger sex-oriented banner ads unrelated to Playboy, but not identified as sponsored by others.

In a ruling last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a lower court wrongly decided the case against Playboy and sent it back for reconsideration.

“The above evidence suggests, at a minimum, that defendants do nothing to alleviate confusion, even when asked to do so by their advertisers, and that they profit from confusion,” the decision said.

Legal analysts said the decision showed that trademark law extended into the virtual world as well.

Graham said the settlement included claims against Excite, which is in bankruptcy protection.



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