PANNA news

Pesticide Action Network News, October 2001


Bayer AG has forced the German group Coordination against BAYER-Dangers (CBG) to remove their homepage from the Internet by threatening them with heavy court costs. CBG had registered a domain and had oriented the name to be similar to other group names such as Germanwatch, AOLwatch, and Human Rights Watch. Bayer has taken legal action to apparently avoid confusion - despite the homepage's unequivocally critical orientation.

The company also forced the group to cancel the related trademark by threatening them with a second court case. The CBG had already successfully registered the aforementioned name with the Munich Patent Office. Bayer has assessed the amount of the controversies to be 250,000 DM (115.000 US$) each, which would have led to the CBG having to pay over 100,000 DM in court costs. The honorary association therefore had no other choice but to concede by canceling the trademark and homepage.

The Patent Office's copyright investigation had reviewed whether there was any danger of confusion as a result of the copyrighted trademark and had determined that there was none. Bayer's arguments are also ignoring a recent court decision that declared that a domain name cannot be viewed separately from the contents of a homepage.

Axel Koehler-Schnura had the following to say about the issue: "Bayer's behavior in this issue, which is clearly directed towards the network's economic ruin is clearly an attack on democratic principles and freedom of opinion. The company is obviously afraid of a public discussion and has instead chosen repression and the devastating power of money". According to Koehler-Schnura, the association does not want to waste its energy on legal hair-splitting on letters, but instead chooses to continue to publicize the company's role in causing environmental damage, maintaining worker exploitation and endangering human health throughout the world.