Trademarks and Metatags: an update

By Richard Stobbe

What if a competitor cut and paste the metatags from your website and used them on the competitor’s site? Is there a remedy under Canadian law? Are metatags subject to trademark protection? The answer is… it depends.

Red Label Vacations ( sued its rival 411 Travel Buys for use of metatags, including “Red Tag Vacations” in the 411 Travel Buys website. The Federal Court dismissed the trademark and copyright claims of Red Label Vacations (see: No copyright or trademark protection for metatags). Red Label Vacations appealed.

In Red Label Vacations Inc. v. 411 Travel Buys Limited, 2015 FCA 290, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, and upheld the lower court decision.

The court agreed that 411 Travel Buys had copied the metatags from Red Label’s site, but noted that none of the metatags appeared in the visible portion of the 411 Travel Buys website. Therefore, consumers did not see any of the metatags. In that sense, there was no “use” of the metatags as trademarks for the purposes of determining infringement.

Interestingly, there was one instance where the metatags were visible, and that was in the Google search result, where the words “Book Online with Red Tag Vacations & Pay Less Guaranteed” appeared in connection with the 411 Travel Buys site. The court considered that this would have the effect of sending consumers to Red Label’s site.

The court did leave the door ajar for other metatag trademark infringement cases, noting “in some situations, inserting a registered trade-mark (or a trade-mark that is confusing with a registered trade-mark) in a metatag may constitute advertising of services that would give rise to a claim for infringement…” [Emphasis added]

Calgary – 07:00 MT

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