updated 5/17/2004 7:25:48 PM ET 2004-05-17T23:25:48

L.L. Bean filed lawsuits Monday against four companies it alleges used pop-up ads that appeared when some customers visited the clothier and outdoor gear retailer's Web site.

By creating ads that appear when Internet users visit L.L. Bean's Web site, retailers Nordstrom, J.C. Penney, Atkins and Gevalia have traded on the company's name and infringed on its trademark rights, said Mary Lou Kelley, vice president for E-commerce at L.L. Bean.

"These advertisers are illegally poaching on L.L. Bean's trademark," Kelley said. "Using our trademarked name as a trigger to which you want to serve your ads causes customer confusion and crosses the line into trademark infringement."

The retailers named in the lawsuits contracted with software company Claria Corp., which creates programs to track online habits, Kelley said. These programs then create windows to display specific advertisements when a Web browser visits certain sites.

The lawsuit was filed in District Court in Portland.

Company officials for Nordstrom and Atkins declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Genvalia also would not comment until they had seen the lawsuit.

Kelley said many consumers unwittingly install "spyware" on their computers when they download games or other programs from the Web.

"This is such a parasitic practice that consumers hate," Kelley said. "We're trying to get advertisers to stop serving pop-up ads on L.L. Bean's Web site which annoy and divert our customers."

Kelly said the ads are illegal and damage "the investment we've made in our customer relationship."

The only legitimate windows that would pop up on the company's Web site would be one-question customer surveys, she said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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