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Federal Judge sides with Little Guy in Web Dispute

Note: No Allegations have been proven in Court
By Desmond Brown
National Post
June 14, 2000

A federal court judge has released her reasons for throwing out a motion by the corporate owners of popular website Toronto.com who were seeking an injunction to stop two men from using a similar address. The joint owners of Toronto.com - Torstar Corp., publishers of The Toronto Star; Bell Actimedia, a subsidiary of Bell Canada; and City Search Inc., an arm of a California company that operates search directory Web sites across the United States - claim that Ritchie Sinclair and Garth Cole of Friendship Enterprises, operators of Toronto2.com, were causing irreparable harm by attempting to confuse the public into thinking that both sites were the same.

However, Madame Justice Elizabeth Heneghan of the Federal Court of Justice, rejected their arguments. "I am unable to locate in the materials any clear evidence, which is not speculative in nature, that demonstrates the plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm,"said Judge Heneghan, who reserved her reasons until last week on a decision she reached earlier this year.

"Basically, the judge said the plaintiffs came to court without an ounce of evidence. It's a huge victory for David against Goliath," said Zak Muscovitch of Neinstein and Associates, lawyer for Friendship Enterprises. "They've known they were right all along, but the plaintiff forced them on to trial and there's no question it's taken a huge toll on their finances and their business," he said.

The decision hasn't deterred Toronto.com from going forward with a lawsuit to permanently shut down Toronto2.com and collect $500,000 in damages. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for the end of this month.

"Interlocutory injunctions [ seeking a halt of use while a case is before the courts ] are tough to get at best. We recognized that when we went in," said George Jewell, general manager of Toronto.com. "We're going to continue to do what we have to do, which is to absolutely protect the brand and the time and money we spent to build the brand." Mr. Jewell maintains the Toronto2.com is a similar Web site that causes confusion to users and advertisers.

Mr. Muscovitch says the plaintiffs are unfairly trying to protect a "generic domain name that is essentially the name of the city." Toronto.com offers news from the Star and information from clubs, bars, retailers and community groups. Toronto2.com supplies e-mail and Web page construction services.

Desmond Brown,
National Post


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