Digital defends its turf

Digital files suit against AltaVista Technology over use of the AltaVista name, which is the trademark of DEC's popular search engine.

Digital Equipment (DEC) has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against the Campbell, California-based multimedia software company AltaVista Technology Incorporated, (ATI) over use of the AltaVista name, which is the trademark of DEC's popular search engine.

The Maynard, Massachusetts-based Digital bought the name from ATI last March and preceded to license limited use of the AltaVista name back to ATI. Yet, in the suit filed yesterday, Digital said ATI has breached the licensing agreement and has infringed on its trademark rights since then.

Digital--which sells several software products and services using AltaVista as a brand name--said it licensed ATI to use the word "AltaVista" only in its corporate name and Web site address but not to in the names of products and services. The company maintains ATI has breached the agreement in statements published on its Web site and by adorning the page with a link to Digital's AltaVista search engine. DEC, in the lawsuit, said Internet surfers and advertisers are confusing ATI's site with DEC's AltaVista site.

"ATI's actions create a strong likelihood that many consumers will presume that ATI, not Digital, provides this Internet search service," Digital wrote in the legal papers. Digital is seeking monetary damages for trademark infringement and hopes to prevent ATI from further "infringing and diluting" the AltaVista name.

The company has asked the Court to terminate its licensing agreement and order ATI to transfer ownership of the "altavista.com" domain name to Digital.

ATI said it will issue a statement later today or tomorrow.

ATI's Web page allows users to search the Net using Digital's search engine, and includes information for downloading ATI's multimedia and Internet software. The page also has a message for potential advertisers, under a banner advertisement, promising them a chance to "reach millions every month!" DEC does not sell advertising space on its AltaVista site.

The popular AltaVista search engine developed by Digital as a showcase for its technology receives as many as 20 million visitors a day, the company said.

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