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Northwest Airlines (aka Delta) fights for the name “northwest”

A Northwest Airline's tail up in the far north, Alaska

A Northwest Airline's tail up in the far north, Alaska

The website GoNorthwest.com has been operating for the past ten years, providing travel information for the Pacific Northwestern part of the United States.

Northwest Airlines, which has recently been acquired by Delta Airlines feel they own the rights to the name. This started when site owner Jack High trademarked his name last year after someone stole his site’s contents and created an illegal copy under a similar name. High defends his actions stating he has no issue with any other company using the word, “northwest,” but is just concerned about protecting his own site.

Andrea James with the Seattle PI points out  that over 10,500 companies have “northwest” as part of their name, just in Washington state. There are also 366 trademarks that exist for “NW” and “Northwest” in the United States.

Delta Airlines commented  that “Northwest is a world-famous mark that is used by one of the oldest airlines in the world and that has been built with billions of dollars of investments over eight decades.”  The airline continued, stating they were concerned about the future of the site causing additional confusion of the brands. To me, this seems like a big company going a few steps too far. Here are some of my thoughts:

#1 The Northwest Airlines brand is going away. Delta is in the process of changing all their naming over to Delta. There won’t be any confusion in the future since the name will be gone soon. Why spend money on a dying brand?

#2 There is no record of people getting the two names confused.  Even searching for “Go Northwest” on Google, Northwest Airlines doesn’t show up.

#3 The look and feel of the two websites and what the companies offer GREATLY differ and it would be very hard for someone to mistake them.

#4 Should Delta go after all the companies that use the word “delta”? If one goes to GoDelta.com, it forwards you to a Delta marketing group (wow that font looks very similar). Should they be worried? How about Southwest Airlines or Alaska Airlines? When using a geographic location to name your business, you should expect there are going to be people that use part of your name in travel-related businesses.

#5  I don’t see how this is going to look good for Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines. They should just back off now, it just isn’t worth the bad publicity.

#6  Sometimes the legal and moral lines aren’t so clear. Even if Northwest/Delta is shown to be legally right, does that make it right? Should a large, well established, world renowned airline be able to control how a very localized, small, travel website runs its business?

What are your thoughts on this? Is Northwest/Delta going too far or are they justified in protecting their brand?

Image: BobButcher

11 comments to Northwest Airlines (aka Delta) fights for the name “northwest”

  • R Tib

    Well, I don’t know – if someone was using their name without permission then Delta has every right to go after them. After all, Northwest Airlines was around first.

  • Anonymous

    Well, northwest was an ordinal compass direction (and delta was a topographical feature) long before it was an airline, long before the Wright Brothers and long before the birth of it’s headquarters country. The compass and landmasses cannot sue!

  • MP

    I don’t understand what Delta’s strategy is in all of this? Why do they want the rights to the name if they are no longer going to use “Northwest Airlines?” Is it so they can sell it in the future? Or is it for the principal of the matter – if so, what a waste of time and money. But, don’t they say, any publicity is good publicity…

  • NSLSmith

    “Northwest” is merely descriptive (merely geographically descriptive) so it is unprotectable. Thing is, trademarking a name does not mean it is protectible (it is merely a rebuttable presumption brought about by registration). “Northwest Airlines” probably acquired secondary meaning, but NWA is barking up a precedentally unfriendly tree. They probably expect GoNorthwest.com to fold under their lawyer-might. Thing is – so far, in courts, large corporations have had to kowtow to those first in time to register a domain name (totally different than a trademark) with a legitimate intent. Sell your NWA stock for law school tuition folks!!! It would be a good trade given these execs’ decisions…

  • jennywa

    They should pick a new name-Delta West?

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