Legally Ranting

Bing-Go! Microsoft Sued For Trademark Infringement

Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademark by legalrants on January 15, 2010

(Left: the Bing logo)

If you have been noticing, there’s a new search engine service in town. It is called “Bing”, and is a reworked and rebranded version of Microsoft’s “Live Search”.

However, the use of this name has rattled a design firm, based in St Louis, USA, that goes by the name Bing! Information Designs. Bing! recently filed a lawsuit against Microsoft for alleged trademark infringement and unfair competition. Bing! has been in business since the year 2000. The design firm is seeking unspecified actual and punitive damages, including having Microsoft pay for corrective advertising to remedy the confusion it caused.

 According to a spokesman, Microsoft “…believe(s) this suit to be without merit and….do(es) not believe there is any confusion in the marketplace with regard to the complainant’s offerings and Microsoft’s Bing product.” However, according to unconfirmed reports, there had been complaints of confusion, by Bing!’s customers, between the two offerings.

This is not a typical straightforward trademark infringement case as the offerings by the two companies cannot be considered to be identical. In this case, the court considers whether there is a likelihood of confusion that consumers will believe the products or services originated from the trademark owner.

(Right: image source unknown)

Some of the elements being considered, amongst others, are: strength of the mark, evidence of actual confusion, type of goods and the degree of care likely to be exercised by the purchaser, and likelihood of expansion of the product lines.

Though Bing! Information Designs is probably not a strong (famous) mark, there may be some evidence of actual confusion (see here). The case is slightly complicated by the fact that the Bing! trademark application is still under assessment by the USPTO. However, under US law, a trademark need not be registered to enjoy enforcement rights.

About Microsoft Bing

Microsoft launched Bing in June 2009 and have since captured approximately 10% of search engine market share. However, some reviewers have not been impressed with the supposed upgrade. But with the US$80 million in marketing that Microsoft is unleashing, it will undoubtedly attract new visitors to Microsoft’s search engine, plus get some who had previously given up on Live Search, to take another look.

Microsoft is marketing Bing as a “decision engine,” stating that the search functions bring more relevant results and organizes them in a more meaningful way. Bing offers tabs for different kinds of searches similar to Google and including “images,” “videos,” “maps” and “shopping”. Probably the most significant change is that Bing now organizes search results into categories. 

I’m not really the adventurous type when coming to search engines, so I guess I’ll be sticking to Google, thank you very much. But if you want to know how they match up, check out this site: Microsoft’s Bing Vs Google: Head To Head Search Results.

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