Reel.com Sues ReelUniverse.com Over Domain Name
ReelUniverse.com promotes filmmakers' works by marketing them directly to the public in both VHS tape and DVD formats. The site registered its name as a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office on June 2, 1999, reserved domain name ReelUniverse.com on June 20 of the same year, and carries a bold disclaimer on its site disavowing any relationship with Reel.com.
That would seem to establish sufficient distinction between the two, but apparently not in the minds of Hollywood Entertainment executives. Reel.com's legal representatives, White and Durkee of Austin, Texas, have served ReelUniverse with a threat to change its name because the similarity "is likely to cause confusion that your business, website, and services are licensed by or affiliated with Reel.com in some manner," according to a letter issued by the attorneys in early February.
Reel.com's attorneys are seeking to bully their way into complete dominion over the use of the generic term "reel," according to ReelUniverse founder and president Babak Forutanpour. "Our mission statement is displayed at the top of ReelUniverse.com's 'About Us' page. We clearly state how visitors can bypass video stores and now buy movies directly from the filmmaker. I don't see how Reel.com can think visitors to our site are led to believe that we are confusing the consumer," Forutanpour says.
White and Durkee nonetheless believe that, through public exposure, Reel.com has acquired the right to the name. Their letter continues: "Through Reel.com's long and extensive usage and promotion of REEL marks in connection with the sale of movies on the Internet, these marks have become strongly identified by the consuming public with our client. As a result of these considerable efforts, Reel.com has developed valuable goodwill, as well as strong and enforceable rights, in the REEL marks."
The two enterprises may duke it out in court. Forutanpour says he is ready to go the distance if need be. "You can't own the word 'reel.' . . . It is too broad," he said. "Are all movie-related sites and publications with the word 'reel' in their name going to be banned?" Forutanpour points out the large number of Internet sites using the word in their domain names: reeltrader.com, reelshorts.com, insidereel.com, thereelsite.com, thelastreel.com, reeldeals.com, reelaffirmations.com, reelposter.com, reelsource.com, reelpreviews.com, reeltheater.com, reel-movies.com, reelscreen.com, reelclassics.com, reelpower.com, reelevents.com, and reelauction.com.
"If Reel.com wants to pursue this frivolous lawsuit, we are ready," Forutanpour asserts. "They should just be aware of the publicity nightmare that awaits them."