BitTorrent Inc. Sues Germany’s BitTorrent Co. for Infringement

BitTorrent Inc. of San Francisco, the developer of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol, claims in a federal lawsuit that a German company is ripping off its intellectual property.

San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. says its peer-based “branded products and services are used by hundreds of millions of people in the United States and internationally to find, share, and move digital media.” According to a trademark infringement and cybersquatting suit in San Francisco, it claims BitTorrent Marketing GmbH, a German company, is capitalizing on the BitTorrent name and duping users into thinking they are doing business with the real BitTorrent company.

BitTorrent file sharing, aka torrenting, is a protocol often used by online pirates to obtain free music, games and software.

In addition to providing a file-sharing client, BitTorrent Inc. also offers some paid services, including antivirus software, media players and file converters. A BitTorrent Inc. set-top box is in the works that allows people to torrent files right on their televisions.

The company has a registered trademark in the United States of the BitTorrent name, according to last week’s suit.

The German version of its namesake, according to the suit, illegally owns hundreds of infringing domains, some of which redirect to, which is not owned by the San Francisco company.

According to the suit:

“Defendant is capitalizing on misdirected users who are seeking to avail themselves of BitTorrent’s products and services and are instead led to defendant’s BitTorrent website (through defendant’s use of the infringing domain names.) Users are then presented with offers to access and download digital media and content that they would typically find through plaintiff’s BitTorrent client and protocol, and likely sign up and pay for the services available through defendant’s BitTorrent website under the misimpression that such services are offered by, sponsored by, or affiliated with plaintiff.”

The suit adds that the German company has “an intent to confuse consumers and profit from the goodwill and consumer recognition associated with plaintiff and its BitTorrent trademark.”

The German company has registered the BitTorrent name in Germany and the European Community, which the American company is challenging.

In January, the American company announced that the file-sharing client had 150 million monthly users.

The suit, which demands millions in monetary damages, seeks forfeiture of BitTorrent-like domains and demands that the German company stop using the BitTorrent namesake.

Bram Cohen, a computer programmer, unveiled the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol in 2001. Four years later, Cohen agreed to remove copyrighted material from the official BitTorrent Inc. search engine, although other popular, uncensored search engines remain, including The Pirate Bay.