18
Jul/02

Gas Food Lodging This Exit


Check out this picture of a gas station sign.  The station owner, oddly, sells SHELL gas AND its own brand (somewhat unusual).  In addition to the franchisor/franchisee issues discussed in the law.com article, what we may have here possibly is a rare real-world case of Initial Interest Confusion, where the copying of a mark brings the customer to the product, but circumstances dispel confusion before purchase.  Here, the SHELL sign brings the customer into the station, but the sign on the pump (and the lower price) alleviate confusion.  Of course here the gas station owner is allowed to display the SHELL mark – but does that sign imply that all his gas is SHELL-brand?

Initial Interest Confusion was a key concept in the MOVIEBUFF and EPIX decisions.  The MOVIEBUFF court in fact used (tortuous to my mind) analogies of  domain names acting like misleading signs on the road inducing motorists to get off at wrong exits (and then sticking around to buy something).  Well, now they have a real-world demonstration of the analogy.

Thanks to Joel for pointing this one out to me.

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