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AOL may have a copyright on advertising online. Or at least using the word "advertise" in a URL. The company has filed a lawsuit against the website Advertise.com for infringing on AOL's rights to the names Advertising.com and Ad.com.

Web surfers who go to Advertising.com are now redirected to AOL's Platform-A advertising network, but that isn't stopping AOL from going after Advertise.com for trying to steal its business.

In the lawsuit, AOL alleges that the domain name is virtually identical and confusingly similar to AOL's Advertising.com:

"Advertise.com's unauthorized use of the Advertise.com designation with services that are substantially identical and complimentary to those offered by plaintiffs under the Advertise.com and Ad.com marks is likely to confuse, to cause mistake or to deceive... Indeed, Advertise.com's unauthorized use of the Advertise.com designation has already caused such confusion."

AOL is also concerned that Advertise.com's logo is also nearly identical to AOL's own Advertising image. The company may have an argument when it comes to logo confusion. According to Domain Name Wire, AOL has three trademarks for Advertising.com, but they are all design trademarks.

But the problems with URL similarity seem more like an unfortunate part of the Internet to which most businesses by now have become accustomed.

AOL's case is significantly harder because their own URL is so generic. Just recently, a court ruled that Hotels.com could not trademark its name because the term "hotels" is too vague and descriptive. Essentially, their URL is not about their brand so much as the content on their site.

The same arguement could apply to Advertising.com. And the fact that AOL no longer uses the brand seems to make the confusion less drastic. Except it is benefitting Advertise.com's business.

The company rebranded its name from ABCSearch in April and has since seen page views jump from 753 in February to 23,249 in May.

While AOL might not get anywhere with the URL trademark, accusations that the company is purposely trying to steal business by branding itself smilarly may have more sway.

Meghan Keane

Published 20 August, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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