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Homebuilder sues competitor over Web page

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

WINONA — A Minnesota City homebuilder is suing another area homebuilder in federal court, contending its competitor’s Web page is too much like its own.

Winona Homes Inc. is suing Ellefson Builders Inc. in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, alleging cybersquatting and unfair competition.

Winona Homes contends it has had a Web site, www.winonahomesinc.com, since at least 2002. Ellefson, its competitor, has the Web site of www.homeswinona.com and www.homesforwinona.com.

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In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Winona Homes contends it has extensively advertised its products under Winona Homes. "WINONA HOMES’ long-standing use, advertisements and promotions have resulted in widespread recognition of the WINONA HOMES trade name and mark by consumers in the relevant industry," it states.

Customers and potential customers "have been and will continue to be confused as to the source and origin of the goods and services marketed on the website www.winonahomes.com," it contends. The similar names "cause confusion, mistake, or deception as to the source of goods and services" Ellefson offers because customers believe they are dealing with Winona Homes, it states.

The company has suffered and continues to suffer losses, it says.

When the company became aware of the confusion, it demanded Ellefson quit using its domain names. In response, the suit said Ellefson offered to sell the domain name for $15,000.

In its suit, Winona Homes demands Ellefson transfer ownership of its domain names to Winona Homes, and quit using advertising that will confuse people with Winona Homes.

Ellefson did not return a call seeking comment.

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