Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Use a Link, Go to Prison

Remember those infamous SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) that were popular in the 1990s? They usually involved a developer trying to squash all public opposition to a project. Go to a public meeting and testify against a proposed development — or even write a letter to the editor — and the next thing you know, you’re being hauled into court by the developer.

These SLAPP suits never had any legal standing. They were almost always tossed out by the judge, sometimes with a fine for filing a frivolous lawsuit. But in the meantime, the defendant was facing huge legal expenses — maybe even bankruptcy or foreclosure — just for attending a meeting and speaking out.

And now, you don’t even have to speak out in public or write a letter to a newspaper to get sued by one of these 800-pound gorillas. All you have to do is link to them on your website or blog.

Here’s what happened: A real estate website, BlockShopper, had two different articles about the expensive real estate purchases of two lawyers (from the same law firm). Each article was properly linked to show where the information came from — the law firm’s own company biographies of both lawyers.

The law firm — Jones Day, with over 2,300 lawyers — sued BlockShopper for (better sit down for this) “trademark infringement.” Supposedly the public might mistakenly believe there’s a connection between Jones Day and BlockShopper. WTF???

There have already been some totally retarded lawsuits based on the loosest possible definition of “trademark infringement.” Intel sued a nonprofit organization called Yoga Inside (teaching yoga to prison inmates) because the public might get them mixed up with “Intel Inside.” Granny Goose sued a small second hand furniture store named Grammy Goose with the same “reasoning.” Let’s see, a chair, a potato chip — damn, I keep getting those two things mixed up.

And now this bullshit. Somebody from Public Citizen described Jones Day’s bullying lawsuit as “a new entry in the contest for ‘grossest abuse of trademark law to suppress speech the plaintiff doesn't like.’”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen, Citizen Media Law Project, and Public Knowledge all tried to get this lawsuit dismissed. But the “judge” — using the term loosely — refused.

So, be careful who you link to.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

What an absurd exploitation of the law and abuse of legal power. I hope Jones Day loses and has to defend a countersuit.

Fifteen or 20 years ago, down the road apiece on an Indian reservation, some locals opened a small, square building by the highway. The front was taller than the back, and it had a mostly glass front. It was painted yellow with red trim, and its sign said "Donald's Hamburgers." Nothing Mc or Mac there, and nothing resembling golden arches.

Even so, McDonald's sicced their lawyers on Donald's owners. McD didn't want people thinking this back country startup had ties to the humongous international chain, as if that was the least bit likely.

Not long after, the glass front was changed and the place was repainted gray and brown. It did keep the Donald's name, however. Evidently, McD's lawyers couldn't take over a name belonging to a whole lot of people around the world.

Thank God for small favors.

February 17, 2009 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger DB said...

The sad part is that larger organizations can easily afford (and probably budget for) lawsuits like this that small places cannot afford. Even if the judge finds in the favor of the small biz, they may have to close due to money problems anyways stemmed from their defense.

Hell, how many can't even afford to go to court? I mention it because of a recent story about some thrift shop Gov Palin likes being forced to change their name over a similar threat. Granted, the details are different (and the big biz has a better, legit case) but the concept is the same. The small store in Alaska changed because they couldn't afford to fight. Many small biz' with stronger cases easily get bullied into losing.

February 18, 2009 at 2:46 AM  
Blogger Carlos said...

That's what happens when you have a non-technical judge reviewing something as "complicated" as hyperlinks and the tubes that makes up the instanet.

Pathetic. So I wonder if I'd get sued for slander if I said (and hyperlinked): "Jones Day sucks."

Fuck them, and fuck the judges that sided with them.

February 18, 2009 at 3:17 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

This is serious business. Once, the word 'kiss' appeared on my blog, and I got a sternly-worded letter from Gene Simmons' lawyer.

February 18, 2009 at 8:32 AM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

Jones Day does indeed suck. But let me make it real clear that this is my own opinion, and in my opinion nobody with any honor or decency should ever stoop to using these bottom-feeding buzzards for anything.

February 18, 2009 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: That story sure sucks. And it's not unusual. There was also a similar story from an Indian reservation a few years ago. They started making their own cigarettes -- it was a tiny operation -- and they only sold them on the reservation. But Marlboro claimed that the package logo was too similar to the Marlboro logo, and they threatened to sue. I don't remember how the case ended up.

DB: I heard about that thrift shop that had to change their name. Most of these cases revolve around who's bigger and can afford to spend more on lawyers. Congress needs to change that absurd trademark protection law that got passed sometime in the mid '90s.

Carlos: Yup, that judge sounds about as knowledgeable as Ted Stevens' speech about the Internet being a series of tubes. And those are the dumbasses who make the laws.

Randal: So, Gene Simmons did all that hard work and you tried to infringe on his trademark? How could you :)

JR: That's the safest approach; just avoid them like the plague.

February 18, 2009 at 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

I wonder if one could "not" link, by say, something like this:

"Jones-Day law firm is a big pile of assholes all covered in rancid chocolate. If you want to see how bad they are, just to to:
Double-U Double-U Double-U Dot Jones Dash Day Dot Com."

And whatever idiot judge lets a lawsuit like that occur needs to be de-benched.

What a bunch of turkeys on sticks. And the republicans want to go on and on about those frivolous lawsuits filed by the families of people whose doctors removed the wrong organ or limb. Gimme a break!!

February 18, 2009 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Bee: Before I started this post, I was going to call them the Law Offices of Assclown & Douchebag, or something like that, with a link to Jones Day. But I chickened out.

Yes, the irony is deafening -- conservatives always blathering about "lawyers!" and "too many lawsuits" and not a peep out of them when a huge megacorporation sues an individual or a small business.

February 18, 2009 at 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fuck blockshopper - they disclose what is private information - fuck Brian Timpone and his smelly dad Leonard; his corpse of a mother Helen; and his cunt of a wife Patricia (nee McNamara).

December 13, 2010 at 9:32 PM  

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