The New York Times has followed through on its threat to sue AOL's Huffington Post for naming its new parenting blog Parentlode.
The newspaper company argues that the name of the new HuffPo section -- authored by Lisa Belkin, the same writer who authored the Motherlode blog for the Times -- infringes trademark.
“As is obvious from the Parentlode trademark itself, the trademark has no particular meaning and could not have been selected for any reason but to create an association with NYTCo's established Motherlode trademark,” the Times alleges in its complaint.
“Rather than select an original name for Ms. Belkin's competing blog at The Huffington Post,” the Times alleges, AOL and HuffPo “decided to adopt and use the trademark Parentlode.”
In her debut column, Belkin said that Parentlode better reflected fathers' role in parenting. “For three years, I have fielded reader emails about how 'Motherlode' doesn't really fit in an era when fathers are every bit the parent,” she wrote. “For three years, I have answered those emails by saying that a brand is a brand, and the Times wasn't inclined to change this one, but if I were choosing today, I would choose something more inclusive.”
The Times argues that this passage reflects an attempt by Belkin to “mislead readers into mistakenly believing” that Parentlode and Motherlode were the same blogs, but at different addresses.
The Times is seeking monetary damages and an injunction banning Huffington post from using the Motherlode name.
How will this dispute turn out? The names are close enough that the outcome defies easy prediction, says Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. “It's not a direct knockoff, but there's certainly some semantic overlap,” he tells MediaPost. “Courts struggle in those circumstances.”
Goldman also questions the strategy of litigation here, pointing out that the expense of litigation might not be worth the potential benefit. “The key to either blog's success is not in its name,” he said.
The NYT says, “As is obvious from the Parentlode trademark itself, the trademark has no particular meaning and could not have been selected for any reason but to create an association with NYTCo's established Motherlode trademark.”, but if the desire to create an association with the NYT were HuffPo's motive, wouldn't they have named the blog, "Pantload"?