Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
gripes site, infringement, insurance, trademark


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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    senshikaze (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    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.

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

  2. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 5:57pm

    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.

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

  3. icon
    Brendan (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    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.

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

  4. identicon
    Mr Big Content, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    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.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 6:49pm

    Just FYI they are suing and the book has the abbreviation ICBC. Their Registered trademark abbreviation is I.C.B.C. So the book isn't even technically infringing.

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

  6. identicon
    Michael Kirkland, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    ICBC doesn't have a "business model". It's the public, not for profit auto insurance provider for BC.

    While I'd normally agree anyway, using the domain "" certainly does imply that they represent ICBC.

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

  7. identicon
    Mike Shore, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 7:31pm

    Thanks ICBC!

    Hey ICBC, thanks for generating tons of exposure to this site. I live in BC and did not know this site existed. I just sent the URL link to my co-workers and friends. Next time I need to deal with ICBC I will use this site for sure!

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

  8. identicon
    Free Xbox Live, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 7:47pm

    Suing solely just for money. Tisc tisc to these noob companies that seem to be affected by the bad economy.

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

  9. identicon
    NullOp, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 9:18pm


    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....

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

  10. icon
    HolaJohnny (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 10:16pm

    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)?

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

  11. icon
    barrenwaste (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 10:35pm

    Re: 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.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    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

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

  13. identicon
    Michael Kirkland, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 11:49pm

    Re: Re: Michael Kirkland

    Sure, but ICBC isn't just a non-profit, it's a part of the British Columbia government. They're also the agency that issues British Columbian's drivers licenses.

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

  14. icon
    barrenwaste (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 12:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Michael Kirkland

    That doesn't change the fact that they have a business model. Nor does it make what they are doing any more acceptable. Infact, it makes it worse. It's not just a major financial institution bullying a private citizen, it's a major financial government intitution bullying a priveate citizen.

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

  15. icon
    senshikaze (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 5:19am

    Re: Re: entitlemnt or greed?

    I think we are actually talking about the same thing in the long run. I guess I always just put "entitlement" in the same boat as people who want free money from the government and that they deserve it.
    I guess greed is the basis of the "entitlement culture", huh?

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

  16. icon
    mobiGeek (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re: entitlemnt or greed?

    One point that should make this more of a "slap your forehead" story is that ICBC is actually a crown corporation. In other words (assuming the story about "copyright infringement" is true), this is the government suing people over sharing government information.

    See the Wikipedia page for ICBC.

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

  17. icon
    Danny (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re: Thanks ICBC!

    Yeah, Streisand Effect at work again!

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

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