Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mary Kay Cosmetics Sues Yahoo Over “Yahoo Shortcuts” Feature In E-mails

Both Mediapost and TheDomains have stories today about the trademark infringement filed by Mary Kay Cosmetics against Yahoo. See Mary Kay Inc. v. Yahoo! Inc., Case No. 09-cv-01278 (N.D. Tex. July 6, 2009).

The crux of the complaint is over the “Yahoo Shortcut” feature of Yahoo’s e-mail services whereby certain keywords in a particular user’s yahoo e-mail are highlighted and by scrolling the cursor over the text of the keywords a pop-up window appears which contains the search results generated by that particular term as searched through various types of integrated searches including Yahoo’s basic web search,, Wikipedia, and, as was apparently the case case here, “Shopping Offers.”

From Mary Kay’s perspective, an e-mail sent by an authorized May Kay representative to a customer using Yahoo’s e-mail is being “hijacked and manipulated by Yahoo and provide an unfair advantage for the unauthorized re-sellers and other competitors.” [Comment: hijacking and manipulating might be a little strong.]

One interesting point is the argument that e-mail recipients might "mistakenly believe that the hyperlinks and pop-ups which include ads associated with the Mary Kay marks were affirmatively included or authorized by either Mary Kay or the Independent Beauty Consultant sending the email." Of course, isn’t this only true for a short period of time during which yahoo e-mail users learn about the function and after which, they will clearly recognize it for what it is – a quicklink for Yahoo search engine results? After all, is there anybody out there who is truly confused anymore by the Google search engine results that appear at the top in the highlighted area that reads “Sponsored Links”? And don’t most internet users today recognize after typing (or mistyping) a particular domain name thinking that it is the website for the brand they are looking for only to find the standard landing page with click-through links that the page is simply not the page they were looking for and then simply brings up a new web browser page to use one of the major search engines to find the brand for which they were looking?

Of course, Mary Kay’s action suffers the same uphill battle as any of the “Google adword” trademark infringement cases. Indeed, Yahoo’s popup function appears to be nothing more than an interface that allows a user to see certain search engine results (Yahoo’s or otherwise) for a particular term in a pop-up screen. So is having the link in the e-mail what is really bothering Mary Kay – or is it the search results themselves? And as noted in one of the articles, while Mary Kay complains about “unauthorized resellers,” some of the products being sold may be authorized products that were properly purchased and being resold (in which case the use of the Mary Kay name in reselling them is not trademark infringement).

So let the Yahoo Shortcut based trademark infringement lawsuits begin. Can a “Yahoo E-mail Shortcut” class action lawsuit be far behind? Anything can happen in Texas!!!


Darren Spielman said...

We will never know the answer since no party is willing to actually take any of these major search engines on. They all settle and so will this one.

Anonymous said...

First off I would like to say that Mary Kay RUINED my life. When i say ruined I mean RUINED. I invested 1000's of dollars at the advise of these commie recruiters and I did "OK"... I was told that they didn't like that I created an independent site because Mary Kay's site that I PAID FOR, received 0 traffic! I was terminated with over 10k$ worth of inventory and 3 kids.
Then when I opened an ebay account to sell what i had to FEED MY FAMILY and pay back the exorbitant credit card bills (FYI Mary Kay COMMIES: the Mtg companies don't TAKE makeup as payment) and they SUE ME!!!! I swear they terminated ME and then when I was selling what I RIGHTFULLY owned almost a year later, I got served with a lawsuit! Can Mary Kay stay OUT OF COURT for even a FEW months? If they're not suing someone they're getting sued. Says a LOT about how big of a fraud Mary Kay is. Mediocre products at ridiculous prices and commie pink nightmares that chase you around until you JOIN the CULT. Go to pinktruth or pinklighthouse and you'll see how they're "enriching" I mean RUINING women's lives. Apparently, after you PAY for products from Mary with YOUR money, Mary Lay can dictate WHERE, WHEN and HOW you can sell products that YOU bought... remember, they GOT their money.
I cannot WAIT for the day that i see an article saying that Mary kay has gone under! TRUE KARMA for ruining women's lives continuously!!!

Eric Goldman said...

"hijacking and manipulating might be a little strong." Maybe they are being shanghaied?