I read this morning (thanks Outlaw.com) that US lawfirm Jones Day have launched, what can only be described as, a stupid lawsuit against BlockShopper.com for publishing a link to a Jones Day lawyer profile on their site.
Blockshopper describes itself as “a local news and market data service for current and aspiring homeowners, home buyers and home sellers. In short, we’re one part community newspaper, one part ultimate hyper-local real estate research tool.” In essence it provides details about house sales, detailing what was bought, by whom, and for how much etc. It compiles the information from public sources and where the buyer has a publicly-accessible profile online, it links to that.
It seems Jones Day did not take kindly to this. When the site reported that a couple of its associates had purchased property and published the photographs that appeared on Jones Day’s site and linked to their lawyer profiles there, Jones day got mad, and filed a lawsuit in a Chicago district court, stating: “Use of the Jones Day Marks, the links to the Jones Day web site and the use of proprietary information from the Jones Day web site creates the false impression that Jones Day is affiliated with and/or approves, sponsors or endorses the business conducted by Defendants.”
Now, I can see a case for arguing that the use of the photographs may be a copyright issue (if JD own the copyright the photos), but reporting facts, using Jones Day’s trademark (i.e. stated that the associates worked for Jones Day) and providing a link to profiles that Jones Day have put on their site to allow people to identify who these lawyers are? As Ricky Gervais’ character would says on Extra’s, are they having a laugh.
Quite unbelievably Blockshopper’s motion to have the case dismissed was rejected by US District Court Judge John W Darrah. Judge Darrah wrote that BlockShopper’s argument that dilution is impossible on the facts “present legal and factual issues not appropriate for resolution at this motion to dismiss stage.” He did however throw out Jones Day’s case against the two men who created and run Blockshopper.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), whose attempt to file a amicus brief in the case was also rejected by Judge Darrah, say the case contains some of the most preposterous trademark claims they’ve ever seen. I’m inclined to agree.
I really do hope the Jones Day rethinks this one and drops this case. It is case they must lose, as if they won, it would essentailly allow any trademark holder to decide what sites could print their name and link to their websites. Oh what fun that would be.
Disclaimer: Under no cirumstances should you get the impression that Jones Day is affiliated with and/or approves, sponsors or endorses my blog. [Because, I know that’s what you were thinking, and I felt the need to make it crystal clear. And I obviously I apologise for using their trademarked words to identify them in this post too, but I believe some people find this a useful way of indentifying people and organisations. I’m not so sure, but you never know, it might catch on.]