Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bizarre trademark litigation seems focused on normal journalistic links and reporting


Corynne McSherry has a disturbing article about what appears to be frivolous trademark litigation, in an article (Nov. 17, 2008) for Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Judge allows bogus Jones Day claims to go forward,” link here. The case involves a defendant BlockShopper.com that provides information on real estate transactions in various cities. In this case, BlockShopper allegedly named the Jones Day law firm in a headline and provided links to Jones Day biographical profiles on the Jones Day site. Jones Day claimed that this could lead to customer confusion about the meaning of the mark. EFF says, in the article, that the law supports the idea that journalists can refer to companies and partners or officers (accurately) and link to them in ordinary reporting without suggesting some sort of confusion about “sponsorship”. The article also notes that the judge should have been able to dismiss the case summarily as a matter of law, which (unlike facts) does not depend on a jury. The article notes that if trademarks were interpreted in the manner that the plaintiffs claim, no journalist could write about any company without permission.

Another view of the case is on a site called “Chicago LP Litigation,” story by David Donoghue, link here (Aug. 14, 2008). Look here for links for the complaint and restraining order.

The litigation appears to be related to the Lanham Act of 1946, Cornell Law reference here. It does not appear to invoke the newer Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006.

But in another way the litigation seems bizarre to me. Normally lawyers and other professionals in any licensed field welcome the use of their professional profiles on the Internet, given the controversy over “reputation defense” and “non-professional” social networking profiles. It’s hard to understand that they would object here. They’re getting more favorable advertising, it seems to me.

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