The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
In Stay You, LLC v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP (S.D.N.Y.), plaintiff is claiming that defendant's use of the phrase "Stay True Stay You" infringes plaintiff's trademark "Stay You," and the defendant is arguing (among other things) that "the Urban Dictionary definition of 'Stay You" is strong evidence that the phrase is in common usage and therefore also diminishes the strength of Plaintiff's mark." But Judge Kimba Wood concluded Friday that the definition was inadmissible:
There is little Second Circuit case law regarding the admissibility of Urban Dictionary definitions. Where courts have referenced Urban Dictionary, they have typically done so only in passing to explain unfamiliar slang words or common phrases….
[T]he definitions should be excluded [in this case] under Rule 403 due to their lack of probative value. Urbandictionary.com is a crowdsourced online dictionary that allows users to anonymously publish their own definitions. The website provides few content guidelines for users. Content Guidelines, URBAN DICTIONARY (instructing users to "be creative [and] have fun"). When a user submits a definition, it goes through a perfunctory review process before it is published online. A single word can have hundreds of definitions submitted by various users over the years. Due to the constantly expanding nature of the website, Urban Dictionary explicitly states that it "does not and cannot review all Content published to the Website or created by users accessing the Website[.]"
For these reasons, the Urban Dictionary definitions upon which Plaintiff relies are unreliable. Their probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of (1) confusing the issues (i.e., the jury may incorrectly assume the definitions of "Stay You" or "Stay True" are at issue), (2) misleading the jury about the strength of Plaintiff's mark or Defendant's fair use defense, or (3) wasting time….