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Airbnb sued for birdhouse marketing campaign

Vacation rentals site HomeAway, which has a birdhouse logo, says Airbnb's whimsical birdhouse campaign will confuse consumers.

HomeAway's homepage, featuring a birdhouse logo next to its name.
Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

Airbnb rival HomeAway has filed suit against the peer-to-peer housing rental startup, saying a recent birdhouse campaign was an attempt to confuse consumers.

HomeAway, which sports a birdhouse as its company logo, alleged that Airbnb's birdhouse marketing campaign -- the display of 50 custom-made birdhouses depicting popular Airbnb rental properties -- is trademark infringement, travel site Skiff reported Friday. While Airbnb does peer-to-peer vacation rentals, HomeAway is a traditional online vacation rental service.

Airbnb didn't comment on the suit specifically, but said in a statement to CNET that the marketing campaign, titled "Every Traveler Deserves a Home," was meant to show off the unique listings available on Airbnb.

HomeAway's lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in the Austin division of the US Western District of Texas, accuses Airbnb of benefiting from HomeAway's brand:

Defendant chose a birdhouse logo and a birdhouse-centered theme for its first national marketing campaign with full knowledge of HomeAway's ownership and extensive use of the Birdhouse Mark and with the intent to trade off of the goodwill that HomeAway has developed in its Birdhouse Mark through years of extensive use and promotion.

HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples told Skiff that the move will confuse customers about the identity of the two companies, adding that Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has visited HomeAway's office "several times" and has been inside a two-story, 3-D model of the birdhouse depicted in HomeAway's logo.