Angry Lawyer Sues Wordpress Because Someone Set Up A Website Mocking Him
from the a-fool-for-a-client dept
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.