If the state’s new electronic-filing system for court documents were a person, it might be asking, “Who am I?” Partly because of a trademark-infringement suit, TexFile.com will become eFileTexas.gov on Dec. 6.
Tyler Technologies Inc., which operates the system, faces a federal lawsuit by a company called TexasFile that claims that TexFile’s name, logo and website infringe on its trademarks. Launched in 2006, TexasFile provides online access to many types of official records from 180 different Texas counties.
“Over the course of nine years, TexasFile invested thousands of hours and dollars promoting and marketing its services using the TexasFile marks,” TexasFile attorney Trey Cox, partner in Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox in Dallas, wrote in an email. “Recently, there has been a significant increase in actual confusion regarding TexFile’s association with TexasFile as a result of TexFile’s infringing conduct.”
But K&L Gates partner John Sullivan of Houston, who represents Tyler Technologies, said the company denies the allegations. It researched the name before launching TexFile. “There was nothing to indicate it was a protected name,” he said.
“We’re not infringing. But, just to help avoid this controversy and to expedite the e-filing that’s required by the Supreme Court, we’re just going to roll it over to this new name,” said Sullivan.
According to Tyler Technologies’ answer to the suit, around Dec. 6, “the vehicle for accessing the free e-filing system will migrate from www.TexFile.com to www.eFileTexas.gov. Following that migration, the www.TexFile.com website will re-direct attorneys and other electronic court filers to the www.eFileTexas.gov website and will otherwise be shutdown.”
David Slayton, administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration, writes in part in an email, “We do not expect this small change to have a significant impact.”
He said in an interview that even before the suit, the OCA wanted a “.gov” domain to clarify that the state provides the service. There’s a mock-up of what the new site will look like at efile.txcourts.gov, he said.
“We’re really trying to make it easy for lawyers,” said Slayton, adding that the OCA plans to work with the State Bar of Texas to send letters and produce a video and articles to teach attorneys to e-file.
Brian McGrath, Tyler Technologies’ senior manager of Texas E-Filing and Odyssey File & Serve, said nothing would affect the “business of e-filing” and that the system will continue operating “unabated.” Tyler Technologies is working “feverishly” on a marketing plan for the new name, said McGrath.
There’s not much time before people across Texas will be using the system on a widespread basis. On New Year’s Day, the Texas Supreme Court’s e-filing mandate—which says that lawyers must use e-filing exclusively in most civil cases—becomes effective in the most populous Texas counties.
Allegations of Infringement
The original complaint in TexasFile v. Tyler Technologies Inc. alleges that Tyler Technologies, doing business as TexFile.com, operates websites that compete with TexasFile. One of Tyler Technologies’ sitesprovides county courthouse records.
TexasFile alleges that TexFile’s name, Web domain and logo are confusingly and substantially similar to TexasFile’s trademarks. The “Infringing Marks” are likely to confuse customers to think TexFile is connected to TexasFile, says the complaint, filed on Oct. 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Sherman.
TexasFile is suing for unfair competition, dilution, trademark infringement and cybersquatting. It asks the court to enjoin and restrain the defendant from competing unfairly with it or using its trademarks in ways that cause confusion. The suit seeks treble damages; exemplary damages; payment of TexFile’s profits, costs and attorney fees; and pre- and post-judgment interest.
But Tyler Technologies “denies committing any act of trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution or cybersquatting,” said a Nov. 21 answer. It also denies that “the TexasFile name and design constitute valid and enforceable trademarks.”
The company also denies that TexFile’s mark, domain and logo have damaged TexasFile’s trademarks. The answer says Tyler Technologies “acted in good faith at all times,” and argues that TexasFile’s claims should be barred for many reasons.
Tyler Technologies also filed a counterclaim against TexasFile, seeking a declaratory judgment that “the TexasFile name and design are not valid and enforceable trademarks for use in providing online access to courthouse documents,” among other records.