Insurance Company Sues Website Offering Claim Advice… Saying It's Infringing

from the entitlement-culture dept

Yet another example of “entitlement culture,” as companies misuse intellectual property law to try to prop up questionable business models, comes in this latest story, sent in by Jesse. An insurance company in British Columbia, Canada, called ICBC, is suing a website that offers advice on how not to get your insurance claim denied. Obviously, for policy holders, this is useful information. But, to ICBC, it’s copyright infringement. Well, at least that’s what the article linked above says. I have a hard time seeing how there’s a copyright claim here — especially since the ICBC spokesperson states that they don’t have a problem with the content, and that they just have to protect their trademark. So… let’s give ICBC the benefit of the doubt and assume the newspaper reporter screwed up, and this is actually a trademark claim rather than a copyright claim (professional reporters for the win, again!). Even so, this would seem like a typical “gripes site” type discussion where, as long as it’s clear that the site in question is not run by the company, there shouldn’t be any problem. In fact, given that the site provides useful information for ICBC customers, it’s difficult to see what the problem is, other than that the insurance company doesn’t like its policy holders to learn how to stand up for their rights.

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Companies: icbc

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Comments on “Insurance Company Sues Website Offering Claim Advice… Saying It's Infringing”

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senshikaze (profile) says:

entitlemnt or greed?

I like your website, and agree with you on almost everything, but I don’t quite see the “entitlement culture” angle, at least on this one. While I agree that the copyright case is stupid, how is this “entitlement” and not just money-hungry greedy S.O.B’s out to ruin what little culture we have?
entitlement isn’t a deadly sin, greed is.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: entitlemnt or greed?

Interesting point. I’m not sure “greed” really explains it though. It’s entitlement because these companies always seem to feel entitled to their old business models (any new innovations are somehow illegal) and entitled to be free from criticism.

It’s the sense of entitlement that no one is allowed to have any rights to express themselves if the companies don’t like it that I find much more troubling than any sense of greed.

Brendan (profile) says:

Provincial Monopoly

It’s important to note that ICBC is not an insurance company in BC, but rather the auto insurer for BC. All drivers must purchase minimum coverage from ICBC, and may choose to purchase additional premium coverage from ICBC or some private firms.

It changes the impact of the claims system, since customers don’t really have the choice of dealing with another insurer.

Mr Big Content says:

Quite Simple, Really

The insurance company needs to stand up for its trademarks. It spent a lot of time and effort patenting those trade secrets, and for someone to just come along and infringe its copyrights willy-nilly cannot be tolerated in any God-abiding, law-fearing society. Fair use doesn’t come into it: its policies are very much covered by the hot-news doctrine, and anybody suggesting different is simply stealing from them.

NullOp says:


I would like to know how, in Holy Hell, is it copyright infringement for a website to offer advice on how not to get screwed by your insurance company? If you tell me the insurance industry in in league with Satan…I believe it. Oh, btw, when did a method of screwing people become ‘trade secrets?’ This is all an illustration of how flipped up our society has become. Anything for money, money, money….

HolaJohnny (profile) says:

I am not a lawyer and all this is just IMHO

But even with icbc in the domain name I’m curious if that once a person reaches a site that its not abundantly clear they aren’t the company or representing the company. And is that really infringing on their trademark? I used to be employed by what is known to some as the big orange box (think home improvement) and not long after quitting for a much much better job I visit a site that I don’t remember the domain but was H*** D**** Sucks couldn’t this be something along those lines? If a massive corporate entity such as that couldn’t silence that site which was very much obviously a critic than how is this insurer hoping to shutdown this site thats not even critical but merely giving the consumer a tool to better handle the likely obstacle course of paperwork and bs that is most insurance companies? Can anyone in the know about this sort of thing give us more insight into how they think this will work (or if it will at all)?

barrenwaste (profile) says:

Michael Kirkland

Non-profit organisations still generate money. Therefore, they have a business model. Take The United Way, a non-profit organisation. They generate money by way of government grants, private donations, and public charity projects. The money is then filtered into thier many and varied humanitarian efforts as well as the upkeep of The United Way itself. Worlds apart from the business model of say, McDonalds, but no less a business model.

Anonymous Coward says:

copyright vs trademark vs patent

Very few non-lawyers know the difference between copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Bloggers, forumgoers, and even mainstream journos mess it up all the time.

Ultimately, there’s no incentive for the site to link to the original source (a copy of the complaint).
* they’d get a lower pagerank
* people would call them out on their bullshit reporting
* they’d be giving up their source

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