If you know anything about CEO Sheldon Adelson’s stance on online gambling, you wouldn’t expect that the Las Vegas Sands Corporation (LVS)would be operating an Internet casino of its own. And while you’d be right about that, the Sands is concerned that some groups out there are trying to use its name to promote the very practice the company is fighting against.
LVS launched trademark infringement proceedings in a Nevada federal court on Friday, in an attempt to prevent a variety of websites from using its registered trademarks without permission from the company. The Sands says that 35 Asian sites are using either its registered trademark, or a series of Chinese characters that spell out the trademark, in an attempt to deceive potential customers.
While that covers dozens of sites that the Sands calls “a network of Chinese language Internet websites,” most of the sites appear to actually connect to just two casino sites. The sites were registered by proxy services, meaning that the Sands was not able to identify the owners of the sites at this time. Some of the sites were numerical in nature, such as 368.com, 8227.com and 9770.com.
Use of Trademark “No Accident”
The sites in question use either the Sands trademark, or two Chinese characters that translate to “golden sand,” which is how the Sands trademark is often transcribed in China.
“The use of plaintiff’s marks was no accident,” the Sands wrote in its complaint. “The website is clearly intended to refer to plaintiff’s world famous resort hotel, as it shows a skyline view of Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.”
That usage has led the company to sue for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, dilution and unfair competition. The Sands is looking for relief as well as damages, fees and court costs.
Usage Runs Counter to Anti-Online Gambling Campaign
In the filing, the Sands points out that monetary compensation alone wouldn’t be enough to allow this activity to continue, as it stands in contrast to the stated positions of Adelson and the firm as a whole on Internet gambling.
“As just one example makes clear, while Las Vegas Sands Corp. is a strong supporter of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, and is presently engaged in publicity and lobbying campaigns aimed at defeating measures that would legalize Internet gambling in the United States and elsewhere, the Defendants’ use of the SANDS Marks on the homepages of online casinos…threatens to dilute and detract from Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s message and its efforts to stop the proliferation of online gambling,” the company continued.
With the owners of the sites unknown and likely hosted overseas, it is unclear whether a legal victory for the Sands would result in the shutdown of the sites or the removal of their trademarks.
Sands Loses Trademark Battles in Macau
Trademark law has been an active area for the Sands as of late. Earlier this month, Macau’s Court of Second Instance published a ruling that preventing the company from registering the term “Cotai Strip.” The company was trying to protect the phrase as a part of its rewards program in Macau. Judges pointed out that the Sands was far from the only company in Cotai offering such services.
“If the registration of the trademark was to be allowed, it would make it difficult for consumers to identify the product or services being offered,” the court said.
The Sands has also previously been rejected for several other Cotai-related trademarks.