Lawyers Realizing That Suing Gripe Sites Might Not Make Much Sense

from the it-took-this-long? dept

It looks like some lawyers may be realizing that suing so-called "gripe sites" (more commonly called "sucks sites") might not make very much sense (thanks to Bill Squier for sending this in). The lawyer basically points out what plenty of folks have been saying for years: these sites are usually perfectly legal. They don't violate trademark law, and almost every time such a case goes to court the company loses -- only adding more attention and legitimacy to the gripe site. Instead, the lawyer suggests ignoring the site is often the best course of action:
The best course to deal with a gripe site often is to do nothing at all. The site itself actually might have a little impact on a company's business and the ferocity of its venom might obscure the reality that it is only one of millions of sites that has little traffic and that is visited only by the disaffected, whose business is ultimately lost anyway. Also, if the target pays no overt attention to the site, its operator may lose interest in this particular cause and direct his or her ire to more recent, emotionally appealing, or reactive targets. Non-action can be the most difficult course to take where there is a demand that something must be done.
He also notes that sending a cease-and-desist is likely to create the opposite reaction, often encouraging the site to continue (though, while he mentions that cease-and-desist letters are likely to get posted to the sites, he doesn't mention that many site owners will use that to get more attention from others using a "they're trying to shut me down" alarm). Oddly, the lawyers' "final" advice seems like the sort of thing that shouldn't be "final" or a "last resort" but should be much closer to the top of the list:
Finally, the target might seek to engage the operator of the gripe site to find out just what his/her problem is and see if it can be rectified. This would be the cleanest, easiest, and cheapest solution. It might not work, but it has little downside risk and might, if not immediately successful, attenuate the ferocity of the attacks and might in the long run hasten the end of the site, by causing its operator's interest to wane.
Wait... speak to someone like a human and see if you can fix their problem? What kind of advice is that?

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  • identicon
    anon, 6 Apr 2009 @ 9:18pm

    good advice

    I think that may have been excluded from the current paradigm of Big Business Practices. After being so big for so long they probably start seeing everything in a dehumanized light. They start using "big clubs" instead of "scalpels" because simply overwhelming the problem every time requires the least thought and tact, despite the fact that it's probably an enormous resource hog on a business. But when you have the resources, why not use them to keep from having to think to hard, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Freedom, 6 Apr 2009 @ 9:56pm

    Communication is good, but ...

    While I agree that communicating is good, it has to be done at a professional level. I had a client recently that started a 'conversation' with one of the hate site owners and it started to turn a bit ugly via e-mail. You can guess what happened, the hate site owner promptly picked out the juicy parts of the e-mail and put them up on the site.

    Sadly, now the client who was 100% in the right and had the facts by their side, now looks petty and draws questions into whether or not this hate site owner has a legit claim.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      The infamous Joe, 7 Apr 2009 @ 5:58am

      Re: Communication is good, but ...

      By "professional level" you mean "don't say something you don't want posted all over the internet", right? What kind of clients do you have that can't figure that out by themselves?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2009 @ 11:59pm

    This just in...

    Due to the overwhelming level of common sense displayed, and due to the fact that this advice is likely to cut down on the number of lawyers employed, the the bar associations in 7 states are trying to get this guy disbarred. One unnamed source is quoted as saying "This type of heresy must be stamped out immediately. Not only should he be disbarred, but whatever law school he attended should be investigated to determine whether they have a pattern of producing such unprofessional graduates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bob Sugar, 7 Apr 2009 @ 4:01am

    Who Is This Guy?

    Is this some Jerry McGuire wannabe? Who does he think he is?
    What kind of lawyer is he - having a conscience?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      kirillian (profile), 7 Apr 2009 @ 8:35am

      Re: Who Is This Guy?

      I think he's sick...definitely a case of intelligence and rationality. It's a very rare and dangerous syndrome where lawyers actually begin to make sense and become human beings. Personally, I wouldn't hire him - because he wouldn't make the opposition squeal, but might actually solve the problem...definitely very sick.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2009 @ 5:13am

    Freedom of Speech...

    A gripe site represents freedom of speech, and as long as the site stays within certain bounds (blatant falsehoods are obvious no-no's), they are protected by the Bill of Rights.

    Regardless of how good your products may be, someone will get a lemon and complain about it. However, most astute researchers will quickly recognize when a product has more complaints than praise. I am always leary of any product on Amazon with less than 4 stars - obviously there are a lot of complainers. In fact, I prefer products with 4.5 stars and lots of reviews.

    An astute business will keep doing their best to make a good product. Instead of trying to action that is doomed to fail against complaint sites, they should try to use that information to make better products. Innovation opportunities here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 7 Apr 2009 @ 5:33am

    Can that be right?

    A lawyer actually gave that advice?
    I am thoroughly shocked.
    Need more lawyers like this guy around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    minijedimaster, 7 Apr 2009 @ 8:04am


    Complaint sites can be very helpful in determining if you want to do business with a company or buy a certain product. I frequent them often before buying something etc.. to make sure I'm not walking into a big pile of crap. Yes there are people on them that like to whine about everything. It's not hard to tell apart those from people who have had real issues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alan Gerow, 7 Apr 2009 @ 9:39am

    Time to put up my website. I never thought I'd get to use it. Its big day has come!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, 7 Apr 2009 @ 7:43pm

    Gripe sites

    Yes and no. If the gripe is legitimate, or seems to come from a "human" (read: logical person) then I agree, this should come first.
    Most of these sites, though, have tinges of lunacy, and I would think trying to contact them directly would be the LAST thing you would want to do.
    I think where the advice given could be improved would be in first evaluating what legitimacy the gripe has. A gripe in your column, for example, FIRST contact Michael - in some of the other weird columns, ignore the nut if you can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mark Rosedale (profile), 8 Apr 2009 @ 7:48am

    So back in the day when it was run by Gawker I used to read it all the time. We would go off on a company for doing something bad, but if a company actually rectified the situation (take the final step mentioned above) it would be all the rage. You could see in the comments everyone would change and think it was cool. Since it happens so little when a company did it peoples ideas of that company immediately changed (unless the company was deemed so immoral that there was no hope anyway for it).

    So I see that strategy working and makes sense. People feel wronged...whether that is right or wrong isn't the issue...what is the issue is that it needs to be fixed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawyers Information, 16 Apr 2009 @ 1:04am


    A study of lawyer employment information also reveals that lawyers are also employed by banks, public utilities and business firms. A Lawyer is a person who provides legal assistance to his clients. The lawyer also provides information to the clients who face legal difficulties. If the client has a dispute with another person or if he is in danger of the other person filing a suit against him, the Lawyer advises his client on the best course of action to be taken. Nearly 75% of lawyers practiced privately either in law firms or in their own solo practices. Some lawyers work as Sole practitioners whereas the other lawyers work on a partnership basis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon, 18 Jan 2010 @ 2:37am

    Nice article!

    I agree with the basic argument of the article. Vast majority of gripe sites generate little internet traffic besides regular visits by the site owner, family and friends. As such they are of little threat to the businesses. Threatening legal action against them is generally counter-productive, as this article rightfully points out.

    In our case, in past we received a C&D notice from a major corporation and we immediately contacted and very soon got offer of legal help from one of their lawyers. We don't publicize this matter on our web site unlike what the article suggests most gripe sites do.

    We have had a large traffic (crossed million visitors years ago) and while it might as well be true that we don't have any tangible adverse effect on our targeted mega-corporations, we would like to think otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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