Sucks Site Lawsuits Move To Include Facebook As Well

from the really? dept

We've covered how it's a dumb idea for companies to sue so-called "sucks sites," (sites that complain about a company). First, plaintiffs in such lawsuits almost never win. The trademark claims almost always fail. No one is confusing the sucks site with the company they complain about. Second, just bringing such a lawsuit tends to call significantly more attention to the complaints against the company (the ever popular "Streisand Effect"). And yet... they still keep on coming. The latest one has a bit of a twist, though. Rather than suing the owner of a website, the organization is suing the guy who set up a complaint group on Facebook. Other than that, though, the scenarios are basically the same. In this case, a beauty school student set up a Facebook group to complain about things happening at the school, and the school sued for both the use of the logo (trademark infringement) and on claims that many of the posts to the group were defamatory.

The trademark claim hopefully gets tossed aside quickly. No one's going to confuse the group for being a part of the school, and it's difficult to see how they'll make a claim that the use was "in commerce." The defamation claim really depends on what was said... but if it was said by other students, then it's difficult to see how the student who started the group can be held liable for them. Besides, some courts at least have noted that online forums are the equivalent of a bunch of friends talking over drinks, and the speech should naturally be taken less seriously. One hopes that the judge in this case recognizes the nature of basic online conversations as well.
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Filed Under: defamation, social networks, sucks sites, trademark
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    Richard (profile), 25 Sep 2009 @ 3:36pm

    Ratchet Effect

    The trademark claims almost always fail. No one is confusing the sucks site with the company they complain about.... And yet... they still keep on coming.

    What worries me is that these cases might slowly change the law. If one wins (even if it was a bit different from the norm) then it sets a precedent and the next case has a lower hurdle to jump. I think this process has already extended the scope of trademark law (not to mention copyright and patents).

    To keep the law as it is we need to win every case.

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

  • icon
    peter (profile), 25 Sep 2009 @ 4:16pm

    there is no ratchet effect

    Don't worry - one bad decision does not create a new precedent that overturns what's come before unless it's a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Moreover, the trademark law and the freedom of speech law is so strong there's no real danger that legit suck sites are going to come to an end. Now, you've got a different story if someone tries genuinely to confuse users into thinking the suck site is genuinely a site sponsored by the copyright holder or says something genuinely defamatory (that is, something false as a factual matter and, if the plaintiff is a public figure, with a reckless disregard for the truth).

    So stop worrying on this front.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2009 @ 11:34pm

    Westwood college sucks too, 36k for a piece of paper is all they offer. The education is horrible and most teachers are not qualified to teach. The Cisco teacher we had was not even Cisco certified.

    Sue me!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2009 @ 12:20pm

    "Besides, some courts at least have noted that online forums are the equivalent of a bunch of friends talking over drinks"

    Except that what's said by "a bunch of friends talking over drinks" doesn't come up in perpetuity thereafter in Google results for the name of whoever was talked about.

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

  • identicon
    Timothy, 15 Oct 2009 @ 1:19pm

    Comment

    First of all, the Constitution comes into play, whereas it is our right to speak against any group, government, or public authority including but not limited to educational facilities. it is called the right to freedom of speech, communication & expression. if complaints at the school are not being taken seriously internallly then, yes to establish a forum of students complaining and thereby working together to develop a resolution or means of protest, is constitutionally Protected!

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


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