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GoTo seeks Eisner deposition in logo suit

With its trademark infringement lawsuit against Walt Disney's Go Network Web portal, GoTo.com is taking aim at the entertainment giant's top executive.

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With its trademark infringement lawsuit against Walt Disney's Go Network Web portal, GoTo.com is taking aim at the entertainment giant's top executive: chairman Michael Eisner.

GoTo, which filed a lawsuit in February alleging that Go Network's traffic light logo mirrors its own, is filing a notice at a Los Angeles federal court this week to ask for Eisner's deposition in this matter.

GoTo has hired high-profile Hollywood attorney Pierce O'Donnell, of the law firm O'Donnell & Shaeffer, to represent the company. O'Donnell said he plans to depose "anyone involved with the conceptualization of the logo," including unnamed executives at Infoseek, which runs Go Network's day-to-day operations.

GoTo hopes that obtaining these depositions will show that Disney was aware of GoTo's logo before choosing its own design.

According to GoTo, Go Network and GoTo.com
logos the lawsuit revolves around trademark confusion. Both companies have logos that show white lettering inside a green circle placed on a square yellow background. While Go Network's logo is meant to be the green light of a traffic signal, GoTo contends that the logo's color and shape have created brand confusion.

A Disney Online spokeswoman said the company was unable to comment on legal matters.

Go Network is Disney's most concerted step to date in its effort to compete in the Internet market, an arena dominated by Web portals such as AOL.com, Yahoo, Microsoft Network, and Lycos. But the Disney portal is catching up: Since its launch in January, Go Network has vaulted to the fifth most-trafficked site on the Web, according to the most recent Media Metrix figures.

Disney is heavily marketing Go Network throughout its television properties, such as ABC and ESPN. The media empire acquired 43 percent of Infoseek in June to create Go Network, which combines Infoseek's search engine with Disney's joint-venture Web properties, such as Disney.com, ABC.com, and ESPN.com. In exchange for the stake, Infoseek took ownership of Starwave and the responsibility for running Go Network's operations.

"We think that the more powerful company here, like a parasite, has leeched onto our logo and tried to derive benefits from it," said O'Donnell, who in the past successfully defended columnist Art Buchwald's lawsuit against Paramount Pictures. "They're trying to sponge off our work."

A GoTo spokesman noted that Disney's court filings listed Eisner in its "persons most knowledgeable" document. GoTo also is citing a December article from The New York Times that said Eisner chose the logo himself, a role that O'Donnell said "very reliable sources" have confirmed.

O'Donnell said he will know the outcome of his deposition request in "a couple of weeks."

GoTo is a search engine that allows advertisers to bid for highest billing in its search query results pages. Last week, search engine AltaVista also began employing this business model when it began welcoming advertisers to bid for a primary position in its search results. And last Friday, GoTo filed for its initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

GoTo said it came up with its logo in 1997.

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