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Lawyer Trying To Trademark Bitcoin Threatens Techdirt With Bogus DMCA Takedown

from the no-monkeys-this-time dept

I guess if you're already trying to misuse trademark law, why not also experiment with misusing copyright law? Divorce & criminal law attorney Michael Pascazi was recently featured on these pages for his highly questionable attempt to trademark "Bitcoin," despite the word being in common usage around the world without any connection to Pascazi. Pascazi jumped into our comments with an extremely dubious explanation for his actions, which was quickly responded to by an actual IP attorney who told him he was wrong. Either way, we had a second post discussing Pascazi's reasoning, and why we believed his trademark theories were incorrect. Pascazi, once again, chose to engage in our comments, somewhat mockingly.

That all took place on July 7th & 8th. Apparently, over that weekend, Pascazi decided he wasn't happy with our reporting or how those discussions went, and decided that he was going to misuse copyright law to try to cause some trouble for us. He sent both us and our webhost a DMCA takedown notice demanding that we take down his "copyrighted works" that were posted on our site (despite the fact that the content he's claiming copyright over isn't actually hosted on our, or our web host's, servers -- a slight technical detail that would be obvious to most observers looking at the page). Actually, he goes a bit further than that, trying weakly to extend the DMCA and copyright law to act as a censor for content he apparently does not like:
I request that you immediately take down the offending works [and] issue a cancellation message for the specified postings...
And what are these "offending works?" Well, looking at the DMCA notice (full notice embedded below), he appears to be claiming that both the header and the footer from his law firm's legal correspondence, as well as the header of Magellan Capital Advisors LLC, are copyrights held by him. If you don't recall, Magellan Capital Advisors was supposedly Pascazi's "client," in the attempt to trademark Bitcoin, and a letter sent from Magellan with the header in question was available on the USPTO website as Pascazi's "evidence" for Magellan's use of "Bitcoin" in commerce. You can see this part of the DMCA notice identifying "the works" here:
Yes, Pascazi appears to be threatening us with a copyright infringement claim for posting two documents on corporate stationery of firms he apparently controls, in which he claims copyright over the headers and (with his law firm) footer of that stationery. I do wonder if the content presented is even copyrightable at all, and whether or not Pascazi has bothered to register them. Most of the header and footer appears to be made up entirely of factual information for which there is no copyright. I certainly don't see enough originality in the content or the presentation to establish a valid copyright. There are the logos in the headers to each page, but one would think that would be covered by trademark, rather than copyright, and there's clearly no violation of trademarks in accurately showing the logo of companies we are discussing.

Even if, somehow, somewhere, Pascazi can get a legitimate copyright on the content in question, he still has no valid legal claim against us. Considering Mr. Pascazi's somewhat confused take on trademark law when it came to Bitcoin, I'm wondering if Mr. Pascazi is simply unfamiliar with the very basics of fair use within copyright law -- and the fact fair use must be taken into account before issuing a DMCA takedown notice.

Needless to say, we believe that we are not infringing the "works" in question in any way, shape or form (and even question whether or not there's a valid copyright at all here) and will not be taking them down, despite Mr. Pascazi's attempt to bully us with a blatant legal threat in the form of a DMCA takedown message. Our lawyer is currently in touch with Pascazi and has been trying to explain all of this to him, while reviewing the potential problems one might face when issuing a bogus DMCA takedown. Since we don't suffer bullying lightly, we also wanted to post this info publicly, so people are aware of what's going on.

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  1. icon
    John William Nelson (profile), 19 Jul 2011 @ 11:56am

    Re: An image can be simultaneously protected by copyright and TM

    You're right, but copyright protection works in different ways than trademark protection. Disney has a trademark on the word Disney. However, I can write the word Disney all I want and it won't violate trademark.

    If I start trying to sell something using Disney to identify my business or product, then I run into problems. This is because trademark protects source identification, it doesn't protect expression.

    I've written about the unique nature of trademark law as the consumer's IP law here: http://www.lextechnologiae.com/2010/11/07/the-consumers-ip-law-a-review-of-trademarks/

    I've also written in-depth on the trademarking process in a TLDR post on the Bitcoin trademark issue here: http://www.lextechnologiae.com/2011/07/15/bitcoins-trademarks-and-a-roadmap-for-the-bitcoin-communit y/

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