June 5, 2003
Hollywood, Florida – MetroGuide.com, Inc. (MetroGuide) has again prevailed over copyright infringers, digital pirates and typosquatters. In METROGUIDE.COM, INC. vs. SPIDER COACH, CORP., MIAMIVIRTUAL.COM, INC., LUIS ROSANTE, ALEXANDRE GUAPYASSU, CASE NO.: 02-23631-CIV-HOEVELER, filed December 24th 2002, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, MetroGuide claimed copyright infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin, and common law unfair competition and unjust enrichment.
On May 29, 2003, the federal court entered a Consent Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction Against Defendants, which provides for the disgorgement of more than sixteen offending domain names, damages, and permanently enjoins the defendants, and those in active concert with them, from infringing MetroGuide intellectual property rights.
“As we have shown in the past, MetroGuide will not tolerate such actions,” said Mark Metz, MetroGuide founder and CEO. In a bizarre link to a previously-filed case, one of the defendants in this case is employed by Hotels.com, which MetroGuide sued in January, alleging copyright violation and predatory advertising.
“MetroGuide has invested thousands of person hours to create quality content, and to develop value and goodwill with our customers by making our sites useful, attractive, informative and exciting,” Metz said. “These defendants thought the way to have a successful site was to steal our hard work and call it their own.“
What makes this case unique is that MetroGuide faced a typosquatter that acquired a domain name, miamihotelguide.net, intended to capitalize on the equity that had been built into its HotelGuide service mark. MetroGuide publishes hotel information on its MetroGuide Network through the web sites miami.hotelguide.net and miamihotelguide.com. “Adding insult to injury, in the case of one of the defendants’ theft of MetroGuide’s content, it actually had the gall to put its own copyright notice on our material!” said Metz.
Internet search engines maintain indices of web pages based, in part, on the web page’s text and domain. When a person performs a search, the engine returns a list of websites it deems relevant to the search criteria. Where a website appears on the resulting list is commonly called a rank. The higher the rank, the more likely a potential customer will visit the website. Gaining high rank has recognized economic value.
“MetroGuide’s websites, including hotelguide.net, have traditionally been ranked very high because of the amount of high-quality content we provide,” said Scott Rogers, MetroGuide president. “When a prospective customer runs a search on the search engine Google™, for example, using keywords ‘hotels miami beach,’ Google lists approximately 1,600,000 web sites. MetroGuide’s site ranks high, appearing on the first page of search results.
“We were alerted to the actions of these defendants by our own customers,” said Metz. “People who have been doing business with us for a decade contacted us to say they had become confused by the similar name. But when they clicked on the link and were directed to the infringing site, they realized it was not really us.” Metz confessed that, on occasion, even his own staff had been briefly misled by the similar name.
According to the Consent Final Judgment and Order of Permanent Injunction against Defendants, they are permanently enjoined from taking or using MetroGuide’s content or derivative works; they will pay monetary damages; and they will transfer all domain names and addresses used to perpetrate their misdeeds, and may not acquire domain names containing the text hotelguide and lodgingguide.
“They have been stopped, as will others who think they can get away with theft of intellectual property or theft of customers through copyright infringement and typosquatting,” said Metz. “We’ve been carrying water for the whole content industry because the very credibility of the Internet is threatened if these kinds of activities are left unchecked and unchallenged.”
MetroGuide, located at http://metroguide.com, is among the largest Internet providers of global travel information and reservations. Incorporated in 1996 and privately held, MetroGuide’s network of websites attracts more than two million unique visitors monthly to its quarter-million-plus pages of travel related e-commerce sites.
Having financed its venture entirely through internal sales growth and with no outside capital, MetroGuide generates tens-of-millions of dollars annually in on-line bookings through its proprietary database of more than 8,400 restaurants, and 31,000 hotels and destination resorts. MetroGuide stands at the forefront of the battle to combat digital copyright piracy, with multiple recent court awards.
For more information contact Scott Rogers (954) 981-5850.