General Motors is suing online lending exchange LendingTree in a lawsuit that alleges trademark infringement and cyberpiracy.
The giant automaker last week asked a federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan to block LendingTree from using the Web site, www.gmac.realestate.com, to promote its lending services because the domain name is almost identical to GMAC’s www.gmacrealestate.com. GMAC stands for General Motors Acceptance Corp., the name of the company’s mortgage lending arm.
The lawsuit sites the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and seeks a permanent injunction, as well as payment of all revenues or profits made as a result of the alleged trademark use. The suit will test the laws on trademark use and Internet domain names and is an example of the growing importance of the Internet in conducting business and advertising services.
No one from GMAC could be reached this morning to comment on the lawsuit.
Web users who mistakenly add an extra dot to the URL for GMAC’s real estate Web site arrive at LendingTree’s RealEstate.com site instead. RealEstate.com includes a home search feature, links to LendingTree’s find-a-Realtor service and sections about mortgages and consumer credit reports. LendingTree prominently advertises its services on the site.
LendingTree owns RealEstate.com, as well as the “.realestate.com” sub-domain. That means any word or combination of characters–not just “GMAC”–that is entered before the “.realestate.com” sub-domain will divert users to the RealEstate.com Web site.
The complaint alleges that LendingTree “misappropriated and is using the Internet domain name and sub-domain name ‘gmac.realestate.com’ to divert Internet users and potential customers of GM to (its) own competing Web site and competing products and services.”
LendingTree said it has done nothing to divert GMAC’s traffic.
“It’s important to note that we have never marketed or promoted in any way the use of any GMAC name or mark as a sub-domain of the RealEstate.com domain,” LendingTree said in a statement.
LendingTree said there are legitimate business reasons for setting up domains to send traffic from a sub-domain into the main domain address and that the previous owner of the RealEstate.com domain and sub-domain had the URL set up in the same way.
GM first began using the name GMAC Mortgage Corp. in 1985, according to the complaint. In 1999, the company began using the trademark “GMAC Real Estate” and registered the Internet domain name gmacrealestate.com to offer its mortgage and financial services.
Media mogul Barry Diller’s InteractiveCorp owns LendingTree. The company matches consumers to mortgage lenders and real estate agents. The LendingTree lending exchange includes more than 200 banks, while the realty services arm connects home buyers and sellers to a nationwide network of approximately 10,000 Realtors.
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