A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit significantly advances the rapidly developing law of unfair competition at the intersection of trademarks and domain names. The law in this area is not set forth in legislation, but rather is developed by judges on a case-by-case basis. Until now, the growing body of cyberspace trademark law has been articulated in scattered lower court opinions, many of which involved only superficial legal analysis and are officially unpublished, and therefore unreliable as controlling authority.

The decision in Brookfield Communications Inc. v. West Coast Entertainment Corp., No. 98-56918, 1999 U.S. App. Lexis 7779 (9th Cir. April 22, 1999), is detailed and definitive on its facts, which trace a familiar pattern. The case involved brand names for software and information services — centerpieces of the cyberspace marketplace.