Big Law Firm, Jones Day, Abusing Trademark Law To Stop Website From Reporting Public Info

from the abuse-of-power dept

We’ve seen all sorts of cases of companies abusing trademark law over the years, but this latest one may be the most questionable — and tragically, it may actually work. It involves a site, BlockShopper that’s basically a blog tracking publicly available info on real estate sales in certain neighborhoods around the country. It recently had two posts about associates at the big law firm, Jones Day, buying property in Chicago, listing out the details, including the fact that the lawyers worked at Jones Day with their photos. Jones Day has sued the website for trademark infringement. This seems highly questionable on a number of fronts.

Paul Alan Levy from Public Citizen describes what an incredible abuse of trademark law this is:

According to Jones Day, linking to its web site dilutes its trademark and creates a likelihood of confusion. But that is preposterous. The link is in connection with a comment on Jones Day; when a trademark is used to comment on the trademark holder, the use reinforces the association with the trademark holder, rather than blurring it, and besides use for commentary is expressly protected as fair use under the Lanham Act as amended in 2006. Moreover, nobody could visit the BlockShopper web site and think that it is sponsored by or affiliated with Jones Day, even if they follow the links from BlockShopper’s mention of Jones Day associates to Jones Day’s own web site. That is what web sites do ??? they link to other web sites (that’s what makes it a “World Wide Web”).

Indeed, throughout the first paragraph above, I used Jones Day’s name (because I am writing about that firm) and linked to Jones Day’s web site and elsewhere. Is Public Citizen equally liable for trademark infringement and dilution? If Jones Day is right here, it is hard to see how the Web could survive.

As Levy notes, based on Jones Day’s argument, anyone who writes about the law firm may be liable for trademark infringement, but that’s ridiculous. Tragically, it sounds like the judge in the case is ignoring all of this. The judge not only agreed to a temporary restraining order against BlockShopper, but also told the site’s owner:

“Do you know, young man, how much money it’s going to cost you to defend yourselves against Jones Day?”

Apparently, actually being on the right side of the law is meaningless.

And before people bring up questions of copyright or privacy, Jones Day isn’t suing over either of those — and this is all publicly available information, so it’s difficult to see what the privacy claim is. Right now, it just looks like a case of a big law firm bullying the owner of a website because he’s done something the firm doesn’t like — and the judge is helping the firm out.

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Companies: jones day

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Comments on “Big Law Firm, Jones Day, Abusing Trademark Law To Stop Website From Reporting Public Info”

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41 Comments
Shohat says:

Re: Re: Boycott

Isaac, the amount of traffic they get is as meaningful as the color of my neighbor’s door knob. It’s a real company, not a blog.

The real problem here is the judge and the fact it’s the US. In Europe for instance, Scientology scare tactics didn’t work well because defending yourself in court, if you are right, simply doesn’t (and shouldn’t) cost millions.

The judge’s words should be enough to get the judge fired. In a truly correct system, If the law is on the defendant’s side, he shouldn’t even be required to be present. The judge’s mere understanding and interpretation of the law should be enough to rule in his favor.

Tired of A-Hole law firms.... says:

Just counter-sue

Wouldn’t it be better to just send cease and desist letters from every site that the law firm’s web site links to? Maybe introduce those links as evidence that the law firm is making a bad faith claim, since they *clearly* wouldn’t commit the same offense they’re charging someone else with committing.

ehrichweiss says:

trademark dilution...

The problem with trademark dilution is that in order to sue for it, you have to be a *nationally recognized* trademark and not simply registered. In other words, even if I registered a mark with the feds, unless a good portion of the nation recognized it like they would, say, Keebler or Nike, I couldn’t sue for dilution.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Do you know, young man, how much money it’s going to cost you to defend yourselves against Jones Day?”

As Mr. Levy noted in his article, he does not know if the presiding judge actually said what is quoted above. It is only with this important caveat that Mr. Levy proceeds with his article. I confess being surprised that the summary here omits Mr. Levy’s caveat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“And that makes it ok for JD to have bullied this site? Spoken like a true lawyer…”

Dismissal on the pleadings is not commonplace, but having reviewed the complaints (the original and the amended) and the facts alleged in them, it is difficult to see any reasonable possibility that JD could prevail on any of its trademark and unfair competition claims.

Consequently, I expect that the web site will file a motion to dismiss (if it has not already done so), and there is good reason to believe it may be granted.

I am not sure I would agree that JD is being a bully, but I do believe the negative publicity far outweighs any benefit to it.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As Mr. Levy noted in his article, he does not know if the presiding judge actually said what is quoted above. It is only with this important caveat that Mr. Levy proceeds with his article. I confess being surprised that the summary here omits Mr. Levy’s caveat.

MLS, why do you make it sound as if Levy didn’t believe that’s what the judge says? Levy makes it clear that that’s what those present say the judge said. Funny that someone who has been called out on this site for gross exaggerations of the truth, often twisting things and mocking people who disagree with you, would twist Levy’s words to make me look bad.

I assume that you have never, not once, repeated a quote from someone heard third hand?

Do you really have nothing better to do?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Levy article, para. 5, last line:

“…if actually made…”

Mr. Levy states this as a disclaimer, and rightly so, because it is hearsay that may or may not be accurate. Perhaps the judge did say something like this in open court, in which case the judge will have opened himself up to substantial criticism (perhaps even professional discipline) for the appearance being partisan, but I prefer to give the judge the benefit of the doubt absent an official transcript of the proceedings.

Kouhei says:

Re: Re:

Judge John W. Darrah
http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=2881

Source: http://pubcit.typepad.com/clpblog/2008/09/trademark-abuse.html
From the above source: “…reportedly tried to encourage the defendants to give up their rights by saying ?Do you know, young man, how much money it?s going to cost you to defend yourselves against Jones Day??”

This type of behavior should not be tolerated. Judge Darrah should be removed from his bench for this comment alone if it can be proven he said/wrote it.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Stop spreading rumors...

Jones day is a very reputed firm and I don’t think they would sue someone if there is no issue. The information in this articles is too skimpy to make any conclusion… so stop spreading rumors.

Which part of the post is a “rumor” as opposed to an actual filed lawsuit? And if you don’t think that reputable firms file bogus lawsuits, you haven’t been paying attention.

SmallIsBeautiful says:

Jones Day is not the only one

Jones Day is not the only big law firm that does these kind of things. In fact, even in India, the *really* big law firms don’t even allow small guys to speak on an equal platform **in the proper channels**. The control of such monstrous law firms is such that not only free speech but mere presence in, or use of, the **proper channels** just to argue your side, is seen as a threat to their rule and power. So, we small guys have to use their own preached methods of speaking through small legal platforms across the internet…
I have to state that, all said and done, the law is an ass.

Glenn Charles (user link) says:

Legality and meaning

I’m criminal for being epileptic–or for having a seizure (without warning) while driving, having taken medication properly. The judge instructed the jury to find me guilty of something. A Top Secret clearance during the Vietnam war had already taught me much of the lack of meaning of what we’re taught to believe. Somehow, though, I still find myself astounded to be a criminal for being sick (it’s probably a side-effect of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). At least being a veteran makes me a hero. Well, honorable. Okay, I’m an idiot.
–Glenn

miles oravetz (user link) says:

jones day international law firm violates bill of rights

What Jones Day Clients Think

Jones Day can’t protect the logos of their clients. Companies like Chevron, Pfizer, or Bank of America (and dozens of others) have their logos prominently posted on WeBetrayAmerica.com. They’re all a part of WeBetrayAmerica.com! All are associated with corruption, criminal activity, and terrorism against America: WeBetrayAmerica.com. But, maybe BNY Mellon,

Halliburton, The Washington Post, or Ernst & Young (etc., etc.) profit from collaboration with terrorists and criminals…and don’t mind their logos on WeBetrayAmerica. But, maybe these same companies and others, JPMorgan Chase, Metlife, JCPenny, or TimeWarner (etc.,etc.) rant and rage at Jones Day to get their logos off WeBetrayAmerica…but Jones Day is just too flaccid and impotent to get it done…so really, what good is Jones Day! And all these logos and more stay posted on http://www.WeBetrayAmerica. It’s no longer Jones Day, trademark protection litigators exemplar…but Jones Day, the Big Limp of the legal world. Imagine, website WeBetrayAmerica, written by a bucket-and-brush house painter, outsmarts and kicks the ass of Jones Day! Who needs Jones Day…maybe all you need is Miles and his WeBetrayAmerica

on our side. Hackers try over 20,000 terrorist attacks to take out http://www.webetrayamerica.com cowardly , don’t you think?And who has such resources-20,000 attacks! Miscreants just hate honesty and truth. The world knows Jones Day exemplifies cowardness, corruption, and criminal activity; do you think …? WeBetrayAmerica.com streams on: freedom and liberty are alive. Check site and read how Warren Buffett does the Big Dance with Katharine Weymouth the Washington Post owner on Health-Care Reform. any question call me Mile 203-570-2214

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