Monday, August 19, 2013

"Reverse" domain name use appears OK, despite recent litigation; more on "running around" and noticing businesses with duplicate names

A recent lawsuit (Baker v. Deshong) filed against a Texas blogger by someone supposedly promoting “AIDS denialism” is predicated in part on the blogger’s legally registering a “reverse domain name” to parody the activities of the “denialist”.   I wrote a posting about this matter on the “BillBoushka” blog Friday Aug. 16.  I won’t get into the merits of this specific case here, but I did want to note that it appears, from going through some past history, that in general courts will accept the idea of a non-commercial domain (one with no advertising, for example) being named in a way to parody or draw negative public attention to an established trademark.  It looks like I have a major posting on this on April 1, 2012.
That post had noted a criticism of an anti-phishing bill, the 2008 Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act (CNET story ) which might have jeopardized non-commercial parody.  Apparently the 2006 Trademark Dilution law, signed rather quietly by President Bush late that year, did make exceptions for parody.
I personally am not particularly a fan of the practice.  I name my domains and blogs after some combination of myself (my own name and “pseudonym”) and a collection of issues, but never after just one particular entity.  Obviously, though, my domain name “do ask do tell” sounds like a parody of the old military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military, and indeed it was.   But it wasn’t a parody of another company name or its workmark.

I did a little “running around” Saturday, and noticed some more new restaurants in Northern Virginia with previously used names. (It’s dangerous for bloggers to “run around” with cameras.)   In Merrifield VA (near the Beltway and Lee Highway) there are two grilles, the “Trio” and “Open Road”.  There is a popular, low-cost “Trio” restaurant in the Dupont area of Washington DC, don’t know if there is any connection.  “Open Road” is also the name of a movie distribution studio that releases independent film (it’s “JOBS” was playing across Lee Highway in the new Angelika theater – that’s why I was in the area.  Well, movies are a different line of business from restaurants – except that movie theater chains are starting to open restaurants.  And does “Open Road” having anything to do with “Roadside Attractions”, another indie distributor that works with Lionsgate? Probably not.  (The trade dress and music use is totally different.)   And in the Ballston (heavily commercial) area of Arlington VA, there is a new “Ted’s Montana Grill”.  I don’t know if this has any relation to “Ted’s Bulletin” on 8thh St SE in DC, a place I sometimes eat when I’m in SE or near Capitol Hill or Nationals Park.  “Ted’s Bulletin”, a family restaurant with 50’s décor inside, made the papers when Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was reported as often having breakfast there before going to the Park to prep to home night games.   Maybe the Nats (a few of them do have homes in Arlington) will try the Montana Grill next/ 

Don’t worry, the Nats are on the “open road” right now (heading for Chicago to play the Cubs).  (In baseball, when you're on the road, the other team bats last and has the capacity for a walkoff win.)   And I do think one of my screenplays looks like a perfect “roadside attraction.”  

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