Court Dismisses Case Against Yahoo From Woman Upset How She Appeared In Results

from the not-yahoo's-liability dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about a woman named Beverly Stayart, who had sued Yahoo over what she found when she did a search on her name. Her complaint was that some of the links advertised porn sites and possibly contained malware, and that this was a violation of her trademark and privacy rights. After the posting, we received a number of comments on that post, and more recently, received a legal letter from the woman’s lawyer, demanding that we remove many of the comments or get sued. With the help of Paul Alan Levy at Public Citizen, we replied to the letter, refusing to remove the comments, and detailing our reasons why. To date, we have not been sued over this, but you may want to take our reporting on the subject with whatever caveats, given these facts.

Earlier this week, the court dismissed the lawsuit against Yahoo and denied Stayart’s request to refile. The court had trouble with the idea that this was a trademark claim, noting that just because she does not like how her name is shown, it does not create a trademark violation. There are two major problems: (1) she doesn’t appear to be using her name in commerce in this particular field and (2) there is little to no likelihood of confusion. From the ruling:

Similarly, Stayart is not engaged in the commercial marketing of her identity, and she does not allege an intent to commercialize. Stayart alleges that her name has commercial value, but it is clear that Stayart’s complaint arises from the distasteful association of her name with pornographic images, advertisements for sexual dysfunction drugs, and a sexually-oriented dating service….. Stayart cannot satisfy this requirement [likelihood of confusion] as a matter of law because her complaint explicitly disavows any association with pornographic materials, sexual dysfunction drugs, or sexually-oriented dating services (i.e., Various’ website AdultFriendFinder.com). As noted above, Stayart alleges that “in no way has [she] ever engaged in a promiscuous lifestyle, or other overt sexual activities, which she and a large portion of her community and social circle consider perverse and abhorrent.” Complaint, ¶ 20. This allegation contravenes the likelihood of confusion, and Stayart pleaded herself out of court on her Lanham Act claim. No one who accessed these links could reasonably conclude that Bev Stayart endorsed the products at issue.

From this, it would certainly appear that the court is not at all persuaded that you can bring a trademark infringement lawsuit against a search engine based on how your name appears.

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Companies: yahoo

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Comments on “Court Dismisses Case Against Yahoo From Woman Upset How She Appeared In Results”

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27 Comments
H. W. says:

lawsuit

I have heard that Wisconsin is the only state that does not require law school graduates of their two vanity schools, Marquette and U.W., to pass two bar exams, the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) and the State Bar Exam. Most of the other states require that law school graduates pass both these exams. The lawyers and lawyers who ultimately become judges in Wiscosin apparently are so superior to the rest of the country that they are above taking these exams. Even beautifician, bartenders and barbers in Wisconsin must take and pass exams before being licensed. So, all you unemployed techies in California, come to Wisconsin where you can “practice law” without taking any exams whatsoever!

H. W. says:

lawsuit

I have heard that Wisconsin is the only state that does not require law school graduates of their two vanity schools, Marquette and U.W., to pass two bar exams, the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) and the State Bar Exam. Most of the other states require that law school graduates pass both these exams. The lawyers and lawyers who ultimately become judges in Wiscosin apparently are so superior to the rest of the country that they are above taking these exams. Even beauticians, bartenders and barbers in Wisconsin must take and pass exams before being licensed. So, all you unemployed techies in California, come to Wisconsin where you can “practice law” without taking any exams whatsoever!

C.W.K. says:

lawsuit

So the lawyers and judge in this case were probably not required to pass the two exams required by all the other states in the country? What does this say about the decision rendered by this Wisconsin judge? To be licensed to practice law in Wisconsin without taking or passing these exams, all he had to do was attend Marquette University or U.W. Marquette isn’t such a great school and neither is U.W. I have never heard of another state giving law school graduates a license without taking and passing these two exams. You would never hear of Massachusetts allowing Harvard graduates to practice law without taking and passing these exams before they are licensed. What a joke the Wisconsin court system is!

Anonymous Laid Off Skank says:

Wisconsin lawyers and judges a travesty!

The judge assigned to this case is 70 years old and should have retired years ago. There definitely should be a mandatory retirement age for federal judges as this 70-year-old judge egregiously evidences. Not only is he quite elderly, he never passed the Bar Exam which is mandatory in the remaining 49 states! He attended U.W. The state of Wisconsin routinely licenses lawyers who attended U.W. or Marquette without requiring them to take or pass the Bar Exam! The Bar Exam is a very rigorous exam involving both essay questions and multiple choice questions. Some lawyers are forced to take it several times before they pass because of its extreme difficulty. Doctors, C.P.A.s, and even realtors in Wisconsin are required to pass rigorous exams before being licensed. Why are Wisconsin lawyers and judges given a free ride?

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