An IT consultancy that wrote the names of competitors into its Web site code to boost business has been forced to do a U-turn after being threatened with legal action from EDS.
The climbdown by Orbys Consulting came within 24 hours of being contacted by Computer Weekly and receiving separate letters threatening legal action for trade mark infringement from IT services giant EDS and outsourcing consultancy Morgan Chambers.
Orbys, a London-based outsourcing consultancy, removed the meta tags with competitors' names from its Web site on the request of Morgan Chambers and EDS.
The decision to include the rogue tags arose out of an informal staff meeting and had the consent of the Orbys board. An Orbys staff member claimed that other companies were using the same tactic.
Orbys, which has paid the legal costs of EDS, is agreeing to send a letter to a number of search engines. This is to inform the search engines that the Orbys Web site should not be associated with Morgan Chambers.
The dispute, first revealed last month by Computer Weekly, has reinforced the legal weight of trade marks over the Internet. Last year the High Court ordered Mandata to pay £15,000 damages after it included trademarks belonging to a rival company, Roadtech Computer Systems, in its meta tags.
Internet lawyers said the Orbys dispute was a wake-up call for companies that do not consult their legal department over their Web site.
How to avoid infringing copyright
Ensuring that your Web site does not infringe trade mark law is a quick and straightforward procedure. Go to your Web site, click on the "view" button and then click "source".
This displays the hypertext mark-up language source code of the Web site. Do a search for names of competitors. If they turn up in the section, they could be construed as "passing off" your site as that of a rival.
Before the threat of legal action Orbys Consulting displayed the names of competitors under the "keywords" section. It is also worthwhile checking the meta tags of your competitors.
Legal experts also advise IT managers to check that Web site designers are not secretly writing competitors' names into the Web site's meta tags.