Thu, Dec. 21, 2006

Double Trouble Hits Spammer

KR - Washington.   Spam EMails violate various German statutes. Most commonly, a cause of action is based on the Unfair Competition Statute, UWG, of July 3, 2004, BGBl. I, p.1414, as amended on April 19, 2006, BGBl. I, p.866.

On October 25, 2006, the Karlsruhe Court of Appeals decided in the matter of 6 U 35/06 that the unauthorized usage and transmission of spam mails with true or fake addresses containing the name of a service provider not affiliated with the sender after the @ sign also violate the German Trademark Statute (MarkenG) of October 25, 1994, BGBl. I, p. 3082, as last amended on October 31, 2006, BGBl. I, p. 2407.

The defendant, a commercial provider of pornographic websites, promoted his services through EMails. Plaintiff Microsoft owns internet service Hotmail, which owns a registered European Community trademark pursuant to Article 9 (1)(a) of the Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of December 20, 1993 on the Community Trade Mark.

The plaintiff had already prevailed in a prior legal dispute between the parties in this matter based on the UWG. However, the appellate court held that the prior decision does not bar, as res judicata, plaintiff from suing defendant again because the facts and circumstances of the new case based on trademark violations are different. Although the court previously granted injunctive relief concerning the transmission of spam without prior consent of the addressees, it had not considered the trademark issue.

The court held that the unauthorized use of the name Hotmail and the fact that defendant competed with plaintiff in the same market, constitute a violation of trademark rights under the Trademark Statute, MarkenG, the German implementation of the European Regulation. They compete in the same market because the trademark was registered for the purpose of online communication services and internet advertisement. Accordingly, all cause of action is determined by sections 125b no. 2, 14 (6) and 19 of the Trademark Statute.

The decision means that the spammer can be hit with the remedies under both statutes. The unfair competition results in an injunction. The trademark violation forces the spammer to an accounting. Plaintiff can then specify the damages for which the spammer is to compensate it.

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