The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of Reverend Jerry Falwell against an Appeals Court ruling that allowed a gay rights activists to continue operating a site about the television evangelist under the domain name fallwell.com.
Jerry Falwell has suggested that people who are gay and lesbian are sinning and that one's sexual orientation is something that can be changed, according to Christopher Lamparello, who set up the 'gripe site' to challenge Falwell's views.
Falwell sued, but the US Appeals Court ruled in August 2005 that Lamparello's site did not violate trade mark law because it is not a confusing use of Falwell’s trade mark.
“Although Lamparello and Reverend Falwell employ similar marks online, Lamparello’s website looks nothing like Reverend Falwell’s; indeed, Lamparello has made no attempt to imitate Reverend Falwell’s website,” wrote Judge Diana Motz, giving the unanimous opinion of the Appeals Court last year.
“After even a quick glance at the content of the website at www.fallwell.com, no one seeking Reverend Falwell’s guidance would be misled by the domain name – www.fallwell.com – into believing that Reverend Falwell authorised the content of that website,” she added.
Falwell had argued that the domain was infringing because the misspelling would lure browsers onto Lamparello’s site, but the Court held that it was the context in which the mark was seen that was important – i.e. the content of the site.
The Supreme Court did not give any reasons for declining to hear the appeal.
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