Williams-Sonoma Sues FriendFinder, Others Alleging Trademark Infringement

Michael Hayes
SAN FRANCISCO — In a move that could have wide-ranging effects for the online adult industry, Williams-Sonoma has filed suit in U.S. District Court, charging a slew of online adult entertainment companies with infringing on the company’s popular Pottery Barn trademark to drive traffic to various “pornographic” websites.

The federal lawsuit names FriendFinder, Online Marketing Services, Unimaster, Yeticash, Domain Name Systems, Virtual World Holdings AVV, Moniker Privacy Services, Ales Lexico, John Salmond, Ford Jeske, Andrej Korchev, Vladimir Techl and Dorothy Simpson. Believing that there are other infringers out there, attorneys for Williams-Sonoma also reserved the right to add additional defendants.

“The purpose of this lawsuit is to seek damages and injunctive relief to stop defendants from their practice of using and infringing Williams-Sonoma famous Pottery Barn family of trademarks to identify their explicit and graphic pornographic adult websites,” Williams-Sonoma attorney Gregory Gilchrist said.

The suit alleges that the defendants misuse the Pottery Barn trademarks in a variety of ways, including embedding the term “potterybarnteens” in source code, using “potterybarnteens” as a domain extension and repeatedly using the term “potterybarnteens” in copy throughout various websites.

FriendFinder’s attorney, Ira Rothken, told XBIZ his client “played no role in hosting sites that use the [Williams-Sonoma] marks.”

“FriendFinder is involved because of its affiliate program,” he said. “The way they drafted the lawsuit is disproportionate and wholly inaccurate. Nevertheless, we intend to cooperate fully and terminate any rogue affiliates.

Rothken added that FriendFinder was disappointed that Williams-Sonoma had not contacted the company prior to filing suit.

“Just like any large affiliate program, such as Amazon.com, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to know where across the world marks are being infringed upon,” he said. “That’s why it’s important that trademark holders make us aware of any potential problem.”

Rothken explained that in this case, several of the affiliate programs named in the suit operate out of Central and Eastern European countries, making it nearly impossible to determine on a case-by-case basis whether an affiliate is operating in a manner consistent with local law.

Williams-Sonoma has requested a jury trial. The complaint does not specify monetary damages, although it does ask that the defendants be permanently enjoined from using the plaintiff’s trademarks. The suit also seeks a return of any lost William-Sonoma profits as well as the forfeiture of any ill-gotten gains from the alleged misuse of the trademarks.

A representative from Moniker was not available for comment at time of post.

To read a copy of the complaint, click here.