In our Internet-enabled world, businesses that do not operate their own web site are the exception, not the rule. Web site owners constantly strive to create dynamic, interesting content. Sometimes, the courts rule they have gone too far even when the legal ice is very thin. Slate, the online daily, recently reported the following. A real estate web site, BlockShopper, posted this headline: “New Jones Day Lawyer Spends $760K on Sheffield.” The headline was linked to the purchaser’s bio on the web site of the prestigious Chicago law firm of Jones Day. Some weeks later, BlockShopper ran a similar ad linking to another lawyer’s bio also posted on Jones Day’s web site. When BlockShopper refused to take down the advertisements, Jones Day sued it on a trademark theory, alleging that viewers would be confused into believing that Jones Day was affiliated with Blockshopper. Given that real estate records are public records and the attorney’s bio’s were available to anyone to view, BlockShopper believed that it had done nothing wrong.
Trademark infringement cases often turn on the question of whether the infringing trademark has caused confusion in the marketplace. According to Slate, pundits on the issue were outraged at the lawsuit: “Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen described the lawsuit as a “new entry in the contest for ‘grossest abuse of trademark law to suppress speech the plaintiff doesn’t like.’ ” The digital rights groups Public Citizen, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Citizen Media Law Project, and Public Knowledge tried to file a friend-of-the-court brief asking for the case to be dismissed.” To read the full Slate article, click here.
— Adam G. Garson, Esq.