Airline fights back against certificate brokering

Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Bauer (D. N.D. Dec. 15, 2006).  Since the early days of the Internet, various web site owners have brazenly offered to buy and sell airline discount and upgrade certificates, a direct violation of the terms governing such certificates.  To add insult to injury, these sites have often used airline logos and other valuable trademarks to promote their illicit services by confusing consumers into believing that there was some association between the airlines and the site.  Northwest decided to take action against one such site owner and has been successful in its initial efforts.

Northwest became aware that the owner of “” was offering the airline’s e-Certificates for sale.  The airline distributes e-Certificates to passengers who have experienced flight delays and other problems; they allow the holder to obtain substantial discounts on ticket purchases.  By their terms, e-Certificates may be transferred but not sold.

In its lawsuit, Northwest requested injunctive relief and monetary damages as remedies for the site owner’s infringement of the airline’s marks and fraudulent sale of e-Certificates.  The airline immediately moved for a temporary restraining order prohibiting further e-Certificate buying and selling, as well as further use of the site or any other term that is confusingly similar to any Northwest trademark.  The court granted the TRO.

Update:  In September 2007, the parties filed, and the court approved, a Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction, thereby ending the case.

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