A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit yesterday stayed a preliminary injunction issued last week by U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr.
Hatter had ordered Disney to stop using its Go Network logo until after a trial on the matter next year, agreeing with plaintiff GoTo.com that Disney's logo was confusingly similar to its own. Hatter reasoned that GoTo.com, an Internet search engine, was likely to prevail in its claim and would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction.
The stay suspends Hatter's order until an expedited appeal of the order, agreed to by both sides, is held in about 30 days.
That means Disney can use the old Go.com logo as it has been, plastering it across all of its Web sites, at the end of ABC TV shows and on promotional products, including mouse pads, if it so chooses.
But the media giant may not want to spend more time and money branding its old logo in the event that it loses the case. The company has said it will be hit with damages ranging from $2 million to $40 million if it loses the logo. Since Monday, it has been using a replacement graphic on its properties.
Lawyers for Disney have the next two weeks to file their briefs; representatives for GoTo.com then have two weeks to respond with their own briefs. After that, the expedited appeal of Hatter's decision will take place.
At that time, the appeals court either will overturn the preliminary injunction or uphold it. The actual trial is set to begin in March.
"The decision today is a procedural one and not a ruling on the merits of the case," said attorney Pierce O'Donnell, who is representing GoTo.com. "We are confident that when the Ninth Circuit reviews the facts of the case, they will affirm Judge Hatter's preliminary injunction order. We are pleased that the court has agreed to the expedited schedule for hearing the facts of the case, as both parties have recommended."
A Disney representative said the company is pleased by the ruling, which is "thereby allowing Disney to continue to use its familiar Go Network logo."
GoTo.com, launched by Idealab in 1997, sued Disney and Go.com, its joint venture with Infoseek, in February on charges that Go.com's logo was too similar to its own. Go.com launched in 1998.