Jones Day Abuses Trademark Law And Gets Its Way: Bullies Blockshopper Into Caving

from the terrible-news dept

Somehow we missed this news last week, but Consumerist alerts us to the very upsetting news that BlockShopper was forced to cave in and settle the absolutely ridiculous lawsuit filed against it by Jones Day. The lawsuit was a clear abuse of trademark law designed to silence a small company, and it looks like the judge did everything possible to help Jones Day achieve its goal. I've spoken with a few Jones Day lawyers who have admitted (quietly, of course) that they're embarrassed their firm did this, but the details of the story seem to get worse with each new step. One thing that seems clear, based on this: Jones Day is not a firm worth working with.

If you don't recall the details, Blockshopper is a pretty basic site. It would post news about people who had bought property in certain cities, including Chicago. All it was doing was publishing public information, based on government records, about who was buying property in certain neighborhoods. Apparently, two Jones Day lawyers purchased homes in a part of Chicago covered by Blockshopper. So it wrote about them, and included links to the Jones Day website, indicating that's where they worked. This was accurate, factual information found through public sources. It was not a violation of anyone's privacy, nor was it a violation of trademark law.

However, Jones Day, as a big bad law firm, apparently had no problem suing Blockshopper claiming that it was trademark infringement to link to the Jones Day website, in part because Blockshopper deep-linked the individual's names in the post to their profile pages on the Jones Day website. That is ridiculous by any standard, and an obvious abuse of trademark law. It is simply not a trademark violation to link to a company's website using its name or the name of an employee at the firm -- and the folks at Jones Day obviously know this. But since they are a huge law firm, they can pressure tiny websites to obey. Even worse... the judge in the case helped out. Rather than tossing out the case immediately and reprimanding Jones Day, the judge supposedly told the operator of Blockshopper:
"Do you know, young man, how much money it's going to cost you to defend yourselves against Jones Day?"
In other words, the judge wanted Blockshopper to cave. The case started to get some public attention, and a bunch of public interest groups, including Public Knowledge and the EFF filed briefs with the court. At this point Jones Day should have backed down and perhaps issued an apology for abusing trademark law to shut up Blockshopper. Instead, it asked the judge to not even allow the briefs from those groups, saying that because those briefs sided with one party, they were not legit. Apparently Jones Day is unaware that most amici briefs are favoring one side or the other. Stunningly, the judge agreed with Jones Day and refused to even look at the submitted briefs, and also refused to dismiss the case.

As we noted at the time, this would significantly increase the likelihood of Blockshopper settling, because it would (as the judge had noted originally) get expensive quickly. And, indeed, that's exactly what appears to have happened. Blockshopper has agreed to change the way it links to Jones Day, no longer using any anchor text other than the URL itself. As Slate explains:
Instead of posting "Tiedt is an associate," the site will write "Tiedt (http://www.jonesday.com/jtiedt/) is an associate."
There is simply no legal rationale for Blockshopper to agree to this. There is only the fact that it was going to get expensive to fight such a lawsuit and the judge seemed to clearly favor Jones Day, based on the events so far. Illinois does have a (relatively new) anti-SLAPP law, but it seems like we could definitely use stronger anti-SLAPP rules to stop this sort of abuse of the law to bully small websites. Anyway, you can see the "agreement" below, where Blockshopper agrees that it will not embed deep links to Jones Day's website:


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Feb 19th, 2009 @ 1:13pm

    This is BS

    The judge should be removed.
    He obviously doesn't give a rats ass about what the law is and is willing to side with a company he for some reason favors. Whether the reason is he got paid or used to work there, I don't know, but its about as fishy as it gets.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re: This is BS

    The problem with most judges is that they're also lawyers. Draw your own conclusions. Something about being on the bench makes them daft in short order.

    Aren't judges supposed to be impartial? Shouldn't the judge have told Jones Day to stuff it, and dismiss the suit? Wasn't that the proper thing to do? Wasn't that the ETHICAL thing to do? Oh, right, ethics and lawyers, water and oil.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Mike Shore, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    Jones Day

    It looks like Mike is baiting Jones Day to sue Techdirt using the same lame reasoning. I counted 15 links to Jones Day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Jones Day

    good, they have connections to fight back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 1:50pm

    More Illinois politics, I mean, after offering a senate seat for sale, what else could happen in Illinois that would surprise you?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    You miscounted, there are 17 links to Jones Day.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 1:54pm

    So who else read
    Instead of posting "Tiedt is an associate," the site will write "Tiedt (http://www.jonesday.com/jtiedt/) is an associate."

    as Tiedit is an Ass ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:00pm

    "The lawsuit was a clear abuse of trademark law designed to silence a small company, and it looks like the judge did everything possible to help Jones Day achieve its goal"

    Nice to see the Masnicks maintain a far greater expertise on the law than any Judge.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    Re:

    But it IS an abuse of trademark law.

    Also, hi Mr. Jones Day corporate shill!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    some old guy, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:04pm

    Re:

    Nice to see the Masnicks maintain a far greater expertise on the law than any Judge.

    It's pretty easy for a layman to spot corruption.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Re:

    Nice to see the Masnicks maintain a far greater expertise on the law than any Judge.

    I love these types of smears. They attack me personally but give nothing to support their position. So convincing.

    Considering the number of lawyers who weighed in on this case, all pointing to what an abuse of trademark law this was, I think it is, quite clearly, an abuse of trademark law.

    Would you like to supply at least a shred of evidence to the contrary?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:16pm

    "...the judge supposedly told the operator of Blockshopper:.."
    so your not sure what happened but you want to be outraged ?

     

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  13.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    Re:

    so your not sure what happened but you want to be outraged ?

    It's "you're" not "your" by the way.

    And I'm not sure what you mean in saying that I'm not sure what happened. The timeline of events is pretty clear. Are you suggesting something did not happen?

    This is the same "Anonymous Coward" above who attacked me without providing any facts to the contrary, so I guess it's no surprise that he did it again.

    For your information, if you want to critique something someone wrote, it helps to provide counter evidence. If you can't do that, we all just assume you have no argument.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re:

    "Would you like to supply at least a shred of evidence to the contrary?"

    The judge and the number of lawyers who dissagree with you.

    The fact that your sure of the facts of the case you are blogging about "...the judge supposedly told...".

    The fact that you often give legal opinions in situations that completely confuse you (which render your opinion completely worthless).

    I could go on but I don't want to rant like a Masnick.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's not evidence. Enjoy being a failure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re:

    try looking up "supposedly" !

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    inc, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    i sense a google bomb coming

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 2:52pm

    The Company

    If your company does things that embarass you or are just plain unethical have the guts to stand up and leave. Having worked for such a company I can tell you its better to be gone than to work for such a company or such a group of people!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    TW Burger, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Power Mad

    Jones Day
    Jones Day
    Jones Day
    Jones Day
    Jones Day
    There, they can sue me too.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Jo, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 3:35pm

    Reverse Streisand Effect?

    Anyone thought of this?

    What if the idea was to show everyone that they can influence a case in their favor and attract new clients as to sue anyone with a completely stupid/bogus claim?

    The way things have been going on lately I think this serves as a great example that money talks and bullshit walks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 19th, 2009 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The judge and the number of lawyers who dissagree with you.

    Um. What about all the lawyers who pointed out how this was an abuse of trademark law?

    The fact that you often give legal opinions in situations that completely confuse you

    Hmm. That is not a fact, it's an opinion. And can you explain what situations "completely confuse" me.

    I find it amusing that you still have failed to give one shred of evidence as to why this would be a legitimate trademark lawsuit.

    I'm guessing it's because you can't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Murdock (profile), Feb 19th, 2009 @ 3:51pm

    You aren't linking deep enough...

    While I appreciate the effort of everyone linking to Jones Day you are missing the point.

    Jones Day that got upset about deep linking. Maybe it was Wendy A. Aeschlimann or Robert Dean Avery (Partner) maybe even Lynn Leland Coe, who really knows> I imagine it is someone on this Jones Day Professional search page in Chicago though.

    I'm sure Mike M. can let us know which people it was, right Mike? Make you could update the article.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 3:55pm

    Re: You aren't linking deep enough...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    anymouse, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 4:28pm

    New Slogan

    "Jones Day, if we can force a settlement when we have absolutely no legal standing whatsoever, just imagine what we can do for you..."

    "Jones Day, when you care enough to buy the best (Judges, that is)."

    I agree that this is probably more high profile 'marketing' than anything else. They have proved that they can force companies to settle when there is no legal reason for them to, so now they can go after all those clients who have a 'small or slim' chance at winning, and they can promote the fact that they can probably force a settlement even when their client has no case...

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Josh, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 5:30pm

    email...

    Look we can send tiedt an email!

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    There is simply no legal rationale for Blockshopper to agree to this.

    Perhaps if you read the various proceedings before the federal district court you might gain a slightly different perspective. The proceedings can be found at:

    http://www.citmedialaw.org/threats/jones-day-v-blockshopper-llc

    The court's opinion and order on Blockshopper's Motion to Dismiss is quite comprehensive and informative.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    A lot of poles in the water ... how's the fishing here today?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 7:07pm

    Instead of stronger anti-SLAAP laws, I think a new law should be initiated by this... the bitch-SLAAP law, wherein the defendant is allowed to slap the piss out of anyone that favors such asinine rulings and tactics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 19th, 2009 @ 7:34pm

    Re:

    The court's opinion and order on Blockshopper's Motion to Dismiss is quite comprehensive and informative.

    Are you serious? We must be reading different documents.

    Since you didn't link to the actual document, I will:

    http://www.citmedialaw.org/sites/citmedialaw.org/files/2008-11-13-Memorandum%20Opinion%20an d%20Order%20in%20Jones%20Day%20v.%20Blockshopper.pdf

    that's hardly "informative." It just highlights how wrong this situation is. The idea that linking to the site can be seen as possibly confusing or an endorsement by the Jones Day is so laughable it's scary that someone actually thinks it's legitimate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 8:05pm

    I've said it before...

    A good lawyer knows the law, a great lawyer knows the judge.

    And seriously, if you're faced with a biased judge, an anti-SLAPP law isn't going to do you a bit of good.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    timstevens, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 8:21pm

    don't forget to profile the judge too

    you know, name, work address, cell phone number, google map etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 8:54pm

    Re: Re:

    Perhaps your views concerning Judge Darrah's legal acumen and temperament would be more effective if directed to the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: Chief Judge James F. Holderman.

    Merely as an aside, if the presiding judge was wrong in his application of the law to the defendants' Motion to Dismiss the federal and state claims, was he also wrong in dismissing from the case the two individual defendants?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 11:49pm

    How about NAMING the

    lawyers and the judge IN THE ARTICLE. Nothing like public humiliation to shame people into doing the right thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    a Chicagoin, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 1:24am

    And who exactly is this "judge" so that I may make sure NOT to vote to retain him at the next election?

    "do you know how much it will cost you to defend yourself in this case?"
    What BULLSHIT!
    I expect JUDGES to deal in JUSTICE.
    Sadly most of them are just spoiled (as in rotten) old lawyers, fire the lot of them, over and over till they remember what their actual job is supposed to be!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    TDR, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    If the JD lawyers were so embarassed by this whole thing, why didn't they fight it? Why didn't they leave and go in pro bono on Blockshopper's side?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Re:

    Federal district court judges are not elected. They are appointed by the President and subject to approval by the Senate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    anonymouse, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Re: You aren't linking deep enough...

    @Murdock

    you can just tweak the url for the search page and you get a list of their employees worldwide... to do that just do not specify any region code at all, like this, or an even shorter url, like this. Currently that list has 2548 results (bios). Feel free to sort the list by title, name or office/country.

    For other languages, just use the drop-down in the upper-right corner of that page (or this one) and just press the search button on the form, without entering any data.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    What???, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Maybe it's just me . . .

    But when I double clicked on the document, it opened up a paper titled "911: Descent into Tyranny," with the subtitle "The New World Order's Plans to Turn Earth into a Prison Planet."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Grae, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Re: How about NAMING the

    Judge John W. Darrah

    Jones Day Lawyer Jacob Tiedt

    Jones Day Lawyer Dan Malone

    Honestly Darrah just seems out of touch and biased, (the guy is 71 years old) and Tiedt and Malone are just thin skinned softies who live under the illusion that their public information should be private. Being lawyers, they turned to fill the perceived square hole problem with the only thing they had in their toolbox - round lawsuit pegs.

    On a side note, they need to get new photographers, out of a random sampling of their associates almost all of them had very soulless pictures.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Sluggo, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 10:24pm

    /. slamming JonesDay

    These litigious bastards are getting slammed pretty hard over at slashdot. Funny stuff...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Max Wellins, Feb 22nd, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Indirect Linking?

    I frequently use TinyURL and other services. I wonder how this would work...can they argue my intent was to link to their site, or can I counter that I'm not directly linking?

    I'm in Illinois, know for honest politicians and judges worldwide, so this is strictly hypothetical. But as a web developer, I'm a little concerned about the potential effects of this case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    KP, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:54am

    JD

    I started a court case against Jones Day in the UK for groundless threats of infringement proceedings to stop their bullying, harassment etc. That case was started prior to them filing in the US, which they should not have done given the fact that there already existed a court case between the parties. A judgement obtained in the United States is not enforceable in the UK as the two countries have no reciprocal agreement. That however did not stop Jones Day from continuously using that order in the UK against hosting companies in order to get my website turned off. They tried to get my domain names but I still own them. My case against them which was in the UK is now in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They picked on the wrong person. I'll never let them go until I get justice. They are thieves and liars out and out and I dare them to sue me in the UK for libel. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to defend myself in a libel case brought by them. Here kitty, kitty, kitty, come on take me on now if you dare, I didn't know the law at that time, I only knew I was right, now try me, you are a multi billion dollar law firm aren't you? so what the f**k are you doing running from a litigant in person. Pussies! www.JonesDays.com, www.jonesDayLLP.com not so powerfull are you!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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