Sucks Sites Get Some More Support

from the dept

The issue of so-called “sucks sites” has come up plenty of times before. Someone upset by something a company did puts up a website all about how that company “sucks” and (almost invariably) the company proceeds to sue the person for trademark infringement, thereby guaranteeing that their heavy handed tactics get more attention. A smarter move might be to actually address the issues on the site or simply leave it alone, but somehow many corporate lawyers just can’t resist. While some of these sites have been awarded to the companies, it looks like the courts are increasingly realizing that people have the right to criticize companies online. The latest such decision, about someone angry with a hair-replacement service, has some great quotes from the court explaining why this isn’t trademark infringement (though, the court also chose to go the pun route with phrases like “bald-faced” and “splitting hairs”). “The Supreme Court has made it clear that trademark infringement law prevents only unauthorized uses of a trademark in connection with a commercial transaction in which the trademark is being used to confuse potential consumers. Kremer’s use of the Bosley Medical mark simply cannot mislead consumers into buying a competing product — no customer will mistakenly purchase a hair replacement service from Kremer under the belief that the service is being offered by Bosley.” Once again, the courts have been called in to explain that a trademark doesn’t mean you control every instance of the trademark — but just those where someone is trying to mislead and confuse potential customers. You would think that lawyers (you know, experts in the law) would understand this concept by now. Update: Apparently, confusion over this matter is fairly common. Even the AP’s “legal affairs writer” seems to think copyright and trademarks are interchangeable terms.

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