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World's #1 PC Maker, Dell, Sues CompAmerica.com

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-11-15

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The #1 US PC maker: Dell, has unexpectedly sued a much smaller competitor, CompAmerica.com, in US Federal Court. In what may be the strangest lawsuit in computer industry history.

Dell claims that CompAmerica.com may not describe it's products as "Dell Killers". In addition, Dell claimed CompAmerica was trying to pass itself off "as Dell".

Dell also objected that CompAmerica had created a satiric website, "thedellkillers.com", that asked people to "join the rebellion" and "offering humanity an alternative to the descent into Dell Hell" --a website described as being satiric and somewhat reminiscent of the famed "Star Wars" movies of George Lucas.

Dell claimed that CompAmerica is trying to mislead the public as to the quality of Dell's products and services. Simultaneously, it accused CompAmerica of publishing links to the source of tens of thousands of public websites and pages from which alleged customers of Dell could be witnessed loudly expressing "Dell Hate" (which ranges from product quality complaints, to alleged early product failures, to alleged bad service, to alleged general failure to receive the products ordered, to the use of offshore call centers who do not provide support or have language barrier problems) on the internet, claiming that by having done so, CompAmerica is unfairly competing with Dell.

CompAmerica indicated it took down "the DellKillers.com" website temporarily, before Dell sued. Without consenting to any position as to whether it had the right to use the domain name, it has elected to take the time to seek, among other remedies: official Trademark protection from the US Patent and Trademark Office for "the DellKillers". CompAmerica.com indicated it was using the expression because it had over time come to be known in the industry, as: "the DellKillers", as had it's products.

CompAmerica stated it had used the expression since the mid 90's to describe it's products, without Dell ever before bringing on a lawsuit, until long, long after CompAmerica started doing so. Recently, the company indicated the title "the DellKillers" was increasingly being used to describe CompAmerica. The unexpected rental of offices in it's shared office space by a so-called Dell "Stealthy Reseller", and ongoing interruption of government bidding involving CompAmerica, by another Dell "Stealthy Reseller" recently convinced CompAmerica to increase it's own marketing activities publicizing it's "DellKillers" theme.

CompAmerica had a number of unfavorable things to say about Dell's Lawsuit, to whit:

CompAmerica pointed out that six years earlier, Dell had threatened to sue over allegations of CompAmerica 'taking' Dell's website content and other things, but had abandoned it's efforts, when it was pointed out that Dell's website was several years younger than pages that existed on CompAmerica's and that exactly the opposite was very likely true.

A CompAmerica spokesperson responded to questioning about the Dell lawsuit by parenthetically pointing out that CompAmerica believes that Dell's products are "not as good as our own" and believes that Dell "does not honor it's service agreements as well as we do".

In it's reply to Dell lawsuit, CompAmerica cited "an entire culture of Dell Hate" that had become widespread on the Internet, inviting the Court to "run a Google search on the expression (sic) 'Dell S*cks' or 'I hate Dell' or 'Dont buy Dell'", referencing both paid/verified complaints at sites like theRipOffReport.com (which had at the time 150 complainants who had alleged wrongdoing against Dell), and referencing entire websites of tens of thousands of written complaints, which it called "an entire culture of anti-Dell sentiment". One, called: 'IHateDell.Net' is adorned with a very unusual logo of a cartoon figure urinating on a Dell logo, that also apparently sells 'Dell Hell' T-Shirts over the web to a growing culture of Dell Haters.

When asked about it's "the DellKillers" marketing program, CompAmerica's spokesperson observed: "We are merely pointing out, comparatively, that we believe our products are real Dell Killers, in the common marketing language of today, like those who call Dell's Axiom 'Apple iPod Killers'."

"We believe Dell knows we can use the expression and filed the lawsuit knowing that it's only effect would be to disrupt our busy Holiday Season. We believe Dell is simply acting like any allegedly monopolistic business would. They're simply trying to repress fair competition. They actually fear CompAmerica might gain a groundswell of popularity, and knowing our history for producing computers with long, long warranties, and for providing excellent, knowledge based customer care, rather than scripted care from an offshore call center somewhere in another continent as does Dell, that we might actually represent a serious threat to Dell's survival. We believe Dell sued us without appropriate forethought as to the consequences."

She added: "In our opinion, Dell's lawsuit, while a clever attempt at throwing a lot of charges up in the air to see if any of them will stick, not only admits to being based entirely on "information and belief", which apparently means "Dell doesn't really know if this is true or not", Dell failed to notice that our use of the expressions like "the Dell Killers" are allowable and very nominal references to Dell. We are clearly not passing ourselves off as Dell! Heaven forbid! We are saying exactly the opposite! Cheaper is not neccessarily better and we're not convinced Dell is less expensive, either, just cheaper! We believe that we are allowed not only to compare ourselves to Dell and use Dell's name while engaging in fair competition, but that we and other competitors can further revel in the many thousands of Dell-Hate pages found on the Internet. Websites which express outrage about Dell may be found in great abundance in the public domain. There has to be something behind it as the complaints we'd read on the web are too well founded."

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