YouTube Sued by Utube

Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp., of Perrysburg, Ohio, sued YouTube Inc. earlier this week, claiming that millions of people confused its Web site, utube.com, for the online video site where people watch entertaining home-made videos.

So, what’s the problem?

From the lawsuit:

“the spillover of nuisance traffic to Plaintiff’s neighboring website at utube.com has destroyed the value of Plaintiff’s trademark and Internet property, repeatedly caused the shutdown of Plaintiff’s Web site, increased Plaintiff’s Internet costs by thousands of dollars a month, and damaged the Plaintiff’s good reputation.”

Not only that, but utube.com casts aspersions on YouTube’s character:

“[The site] condones the public exhibition of lewd and other disgusting videos”

Well, well, well. We’re sold. Good luck cashing in.

Comments

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  1. adamondi says:

    This is one of the most spurious lawsuits I have heard of in recent history. How, exactly, is YouTube responsible for people having no idea how to spell “you” when typing in a web address?

    Ding ding. We have a winner for the first gold digger to go after YouTube now that they got bought by Google and its really deep pockets.

  2. timmus says:

    A site called “utube” complaining about lewd content is like “milkjugs.com” complaining about visitors showing up looking for porn.

  3. Trai_Dep says:

    They say lewd and disgusting like it’s a BAD thing.

  4. Falconfire says:

    utube tried to sue before Google buying Youtube. something happened and it didnt go through, so now they are trying again with Google now owning Youtube.

  5. RandomHookup says:

    Weren’t these the folks who were looking to sell the URL for beaucoup bucks? Probably worth more than the company.

  6. mechanismatic says:

    The complaint would sound more legit if the company’s name was Utube. But since the company is actually Universal Tube etc, they just picked a bad domain name. They could have chosen http://www.universaltube.com. It’s longer to type, but it is more appropriate for their name. They’re also a brick and mortar company. Their website is not their trademark. And furthermore, if they think the supposed confusion over the spelling of YouTube vs. Utube ruins their reputation, what do they think to having a frivolous lawsuit being thrown out of court will do to their rep?

  7. jonnyforest says:

    something like this just really makes me want to go to their site & hit refresh like a few dozen times. try it with me! http://www.utube.com

    really, they should take a look at http://www.firefox.com sometime and see how something like this can be handled well.

  8. Hasn’t anyone else but internet geeks heard about the Striesand Effect (sp?)?

  9. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    If the people at Universal Rollform and Equipment were smart, they’d move their real website to another address and use http://www.utube.com to sell Viagra and porn (or they could turn it into one of those useless referral sites that you get when you mistype a well-known URL).

    Or perhaps they should use the site to host all of those hilarious aluminum tube videos we’ve been missing. Ordinarily, having a URL that people confuse with something famous is considered internet gold. If only aluminum tubes weren’t so bloody boring.

    Tube be, or not tube be. That is the question.

  10. mechanismatic says:

    jonnyforest,

    You make a very good point with your suggestion. If they thought they got visits to their website that were unrelated to actual business before the lawsuit, imagine how many people like us will be visiting just out of curiosity. After this announcement, their hits and thus their costs must be increasing exponentially.

  11. Sam Glover says:

    Yeah, I think they’d make far more money with Dwayne’s plan than with their silly lawsuit.

  12. Mr. Gunn says:

    So, let me get this straight. They’re getting absolute craploads of traffic, and they’re complaining about it? These people are idiots! Ever go to whitehouse.com? Talk about lewd and disgusting…

  13. InsaneNewman says:

    Nevermind the fact that is doesn’t appear that they don’t appear to have a trademark on “utube”…
    Nevermind that even if they did, it would be unlikely to win them the lawsuit because trademarks are only enforcable in the same product/service catagory, or if there is significant risk of brand dillution or confusion…
    Nevermind that their company it getting more publicity that any metal tube company, ever…

    Wait, maybe it’s all a ploy for top-of-mind recognition? Hmmm… :)

  14. Triteon says:

    The folks over at Pen Island are making money hand over, er…fist.

  15. lpranal says:

    I will agree with them on one thing, Youtube definitely promotes exhibition of lewd and disgusting videos of lonelygirl15′s caterpillar eyebrows.

  16. A_B says:

    “How, exactly, is YouTube responsible for people having no idea how to spell “you” when typing in a web address?”

    It’s the risk that the junior user always faces when they pick a name: the risk of consumer confusion. It’s the bedrock of trademark law. You pick a name and you have to make sure that consumers won’t be confused by your name and that of a senior user.

    “The complaint would sound more legit if the company’s name was Utube. But since the company is actually Universal Tube etc, they just picked a bad domain name.”

    They (Utube) were first. It was YouTube that picked the bad name. Utube tried building their name and brand and YouTube came in after them. I don’t know how successful Utube is, but they were first, they have priority. YouTube should have picked something else.

    I mean, should small companies always have to get out of the way of “massive” corporations simply because the massive corporation picked the name of the senior user? Doesn’t seem fair.

    “So, let me get this straight. They’re getting absolute craploads of traffic, and they’re complaining about it?”

    That traffic isn’t interested in buying tubes. So what good does it do them?

    “Nevermind the fact that is doesn’t appear that they don’t appear to have a trademark on “utube”…”

    They have a recently filed application in the USPTO based on a date of first use from December 1996. Thus, they have common law rights in the use of “UTUBE” as of Dec. 1996.

    “trademarks are only enforcable in the same product/service catagory, or if there is significant risk of brand dillution or confusion…”

    Wrong … and right. Trademark infringement suits are traditionally based on the likelihood of consumer confusion. Everything before the “or” is related to “confusion.” You’re confusing issues (no pun intended).

    It’s also wrong that infringement suits are only available for trademarks in the same classes of goods or services. Just try using “Microsoft” for muffins or autoparts and see how fast they are on you.

    They’ll also bring a dilution claim, but plain old infringement will be available.

  17. Ben Popken says:

    Joshua writes:

    “the best thing for them to do is redirect their page to a youtube video, advertising their company, and then a link to their own website.”

  18. Triteon says:

    They should offer to let Google/YouTube buy the name utube.com at a reasonable price and port their site to another domain name. Unless they want to be like Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP and hold out for more money.
    (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius had mlb.com long before Major League Baseball thought of registering the name.)

  19. InsaneNewman says:

    A_B says: “Wrong … and right. Trademark infringement suits are traditionally based on the likelihood of consumer confusion. Everything before the ‘or’ is related to ‘confusion.’”

    Yes, and I would agree with you if people were going to YouTube looking for Universal Tube. However, it’s the other way around. Basically, no one is going to YouTube because they think that it is Universal Tube; lots of people, instead, are inadvertently typing in utube instead of youtube. Trademark law exists to protect trademark holders from dilution of brand due to competitors leveraging similar identifying marks. However, since there’s no brand dilution (or even potential of dilution, unless YouTube starts selling engineered metals) to Universal Tube, there’s no infringement.

    Now what they might have is grounds for a civil suit to cover the additional business expenses accrued because of YouTube’s presence…

  20. A_B says:

    InsaneNewman,

    It still sounds like you’re conflating dilution with infringement. The touchstone for infringement is consumer confusion. Dilution is the weakening of the brand. They are different causes of action with different tests.

    “Basically, no one is going to YouTube because they think that it is Universal Tube; lots of people, instead, are inadvertently typing in utube instead of youtube.”

    I’m not sure if one can categorically rule out that nobody is going to YouTube because they’re looking for “utube”, but I’ll concede it’s likely minimal.

    However, what you are describing is a classic case of reverse confusion. http://grove.ufl.edu/~techlaw/vol8/issue2/feldman.html
    One of the problems of reverse confusion, as demonstrated by a lot of comments I’ve read on “The Internets” is that the senior user is seen as attempting to capitalize on the goodwill in the junior users mark. That harms the senior user.

    Second, as the linked article describes, Universal Tubing has now lost all control over their brand and are not at the mercy of YouTube.