Angry Lawyer Sues WordPress Because Someone Set Up A Website Mocking Him

from the a-fool-for-a-client dept

What’s that saying about a lawyer who represents himself? Yes, well, consider the case of lawyer Jeffrey Wilens, representing himself pro se, in a “trademark” lawsuit filed against Automattic, the company better known for WordPress, the content management system/hosting service that a large percentage of the internet now uses. Wilens appears to have someone who doesn’t like him very much, who set up a bunch of websites using Wilens’ name and the name of his legal practice, Lakeshore Law Center. Wilens is claiming that this is trademark infringement, based on a trademark on his name and the name of his law practice. Even if he were just going after whoever made the page, this would be a massive long shot. As we’ve covered for years, so-called “gripe sites” are not considered trademark infringement. There’s no likelihood of confusion, they’re almost never commercials, and shutting them down would often violate the First Amendment. But Wilens is pointing his legal guns not just at whoever made the site, but also at Automattic for allowing the site to be created and hosting it (he also sued Google, but recently dismissed the company from the case).

Automattic has sought to dismiss the case, which is scheduled to go to trial shortly, pointing out that there simply is no legitimate trademark claim against Automattic at all. The filing is worth reading as it lays out, quite clearly, why this case is a joke. There is no trademark infringement in the first place, and even if there was, it wouldn’t be on Automattic. It cites numerous cases that have shown that gripes sites are not trademark infringement and that registrars are not liable if someone registers a trademarked name. It also highlights how there’s clearly no direct trademark infringement, and Wilens doesn’t allege secondary (contributory) trademark infringement, and even if he did, it still wouldn’t be applicable.

Wilens hit back with a somewhat amusing reply, insisting that all of the caselaw that goes against him is “different” because he’s pretty damn sure that whoever is making these sites is a competitor, and thus, it must be trademark infringement:

Defendants insist the offending websites are just criticism or ?gripe? websites which are not covered by trademark law. But we don?t know that. It is quite possible that Doe No. 1 is a competitor of Plaintiff or acting on behalf of a competitor and not a former client. The FAC alleges Doe No. 1 created the websites to divert search engine traffic by clients and potential clients of Plaintiff from Plaintiff?s websites to the websites controlled by Doe No. 1…. Until Doe No. 1?s identity can be uncovered, and he is shown not to be a competitor, this allegations stands.

Of course, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, in many courts, the burden is quite the opposite. First you have to prove that a violation of the law occurred before you get to uncover the anonymous person. Even so, Wilens seems to be basing his claims on a whole bunch of hypotheticals and “maybe possiblys”:

Defendants may argue the websites do not seem to contain any links to Doe?s own website, but it is possible that Doe reaches out to visitors by email or through the blogs? message boards. There is a comments features to these websites. While public comments seem to be disabled that does not mean there have been no private communications. Before Plaintiff is allowed to conduct discovery, there is no way to know what communications have gone on between visitors and Doe No. 1, although Defendants may be in possession of that information.

However, as Automattic then notes in its reply, Wilens still seems to be totally misreading the case law — and completely changing his story. While he now insists that it could be trademark infringement because it was done by a competitor, earlier in the lawsuit, he insisted that it was a former client:

Mr. Wilens has previously represented to this Court, under penalty of perjury, that he believes the websites to have been posted by the defendant in a lawsuit in which he was counsel for the plaintiff: ?There are a few former defendants I suspect might be the anonymous poster on the website, course, but I am not going to name Doe without some supporting evidence. I have approached counsel for some of the suspects but none of their clients would come forward and admit they are the anonymous poster.? …. It is curious, to say the least, for Mr. Wilens to make a legal argument in a signed pleading based on the premise that Doe No. 1 might be a competitor, where he has sworn that he does not believe that to be the case.

Curious indeed.

Even worse, he seems to be switching the basis of his trademark infringement claim mid-stream. As noted above, in the original filing, Wilens only alleges direct trademark infringement. But in his response, he more or less admits that’s not true here and now alleges secondary trademark infringement (even though Automattic’s original response had already explained how that wasn’t possible here):

Plaintiff appears to concede that the Amended Complaint does not adequately plead a claim for direct trademark infringement against Automattic. Opp. at 5-6. He argues now that the Amended Complaint contains facts that would support a claim for contributory trademark infringement. Id. The Amended Complaint does not mention any claim for contributory trademark infringement, but assuming that one is identified in the complaint, there can be no contributory trademark infringement claim against Automattic based on a user?s choice of a website name.

This really does seem like yet another case of “someone is doing something on the internet that I don’t like, therefore it must be illegal!” Hopefully the court decides to explain that’s not quite how the law works to Mr. Wilens by dismissing the case before it even needs to go to trial.

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Companies: automattic

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Comments on “Angry Lawyer Sues WordPress Because Someone Set Up A Website Mocking Him”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Of course, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, in many courts, the burden is quite the opposite. First you have to prove that a violation of the law occurred before you get to uncover the anonymous person.

But this is Internet Law. The quaint notion of Presumption of Innocence went out the window the moment the DMCA was signed into law. Now an accusation is evidence of guilt, and the burden is on the accused to prove they’re innocent… unless the accuser says “no, I really do think he did it,” in which case you’re guilty, case closed.

GMacGuffin (profile) says:

Torn between judicial economy and schadenfreude...

On the one hand, I think *lawyers as plaintiff* should be required to read Techdirt, Prof. Eric Goldman’s blog, Popehat, etc., before being allowed to file such suits on their own behalf.

On the other hand, except for the waste of judicial resources, and how distressing it is to see over and over again, it is awful entertaining. Because shadenfreude.

Gwiz (profile) says:

What is it with lawyers thinking they can bully people around with the law like this? Now, I know the lawyers spotlighted here on Techdirt are probably not a realistic cross-section of the entire profession, but we do hear a lot about these types here.

My question is this: Does the profession attract this type of personality or does the profession create this trait in people who become lawyers?

Jeffrey Wilens Victims (user link) says:

We are the Victims of this Monster

This website is to expose Jeffrey Wilens – a horrible person – who is fighting his own agenda, for greed rather than his clients agenda for justice. Jeffrey Wilens feels like he is entitled to other peoples wealth, taking advantage of the legal system to deprive them of their hard earned money.

Jeffrey Wilens has a history of using friends and family as plaintiffs/objectors in his “Class Action family business” focusing on crooked ways to money making, not on justice. Jeffrey Wilens is currently married to Theresa Wilens they have a daughter named Amanda Wilens. Phyllis Wilens is his mother and brother Gary Wilens. Here is proof how he uses his direct family member in several of his frivolous cases where he shows typical conduct of Barratry and Champantry & Maintenance and other offenses against Public Justice.

Another Victim of Wilens (user link) says:

Wilens uses family members and friends as puppet plaintiffs

The WordPress suit is just the tip of the iceberg on Wilens. Dig deeper and you’ll find a multi-decade pattern of him using family members, friends, and competitors of businesses he’s trying to kill as his plaintiffs in fabricated cases. It’s very hard to get a class action thrown out of court before Wilens’ victims have shelled out their entire life savings in legal fees. His victims settle the cases, and he lines his pockets. Just a matter of time before the curtain is pulled back on this guy. Keep digging techdirt. Reach out to his victims, and put this guy in jail!

Thomas Jackson (user link) says:

Scammer attorney Jeffrey Wilens lost in court -

Jeffrey Wilens is as crooked as could be but slowly judges don’t put up with his scams.
Jeffrey Wilens lost in court – A federal judge has ruled that the main plaintiff represented by Jeffrey Wilens in a class action lawsuit against Southwestern & Pacific Specialty Finance Inc. failed to prove that the Southwestern violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
According to the order the fraudster Jeffrey Wilens could not provide sufficient evidence that his staged plaintiff did not receive Southwestern’s firm offers of credit. The court order was granting Southwestern’s motion for summary judgment.

District Judge M. James Lorenz also denied Jeffrey Wilens’s request to file an amended complaint and accused Jeffrey Wilens’s of using delaying tactic.

Read the full story

Jeffrey Wilens has a rich history of using the legal system filing fake staged class action lawsuits in order to extort corporate America.
Using this tactic Jeffrey Wilens has been blackmailing corporate America for over a decade. Jeffrey Wilens is clearly running a criminal enterprise using the court system weaknesses.

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