Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Defamation Lawyer:Traverse Internet Law Federal Court Report: April 2009 Defamation Lawsuits

The facts are unproven allegations of the Plaintiff and all commentary is based upon the allegations, the truthfulness and accuracy of which are likely in dispute.

FILED: 4/21/2009

If the Plaintiff’s allegations are true, this is a wholesale high-jacking of a business that has been operating for almost fifty years through a calculated plan to misappropriate the trademark, copyright, and online identity of the Plaintiff and then claim that the Plaintiff no longer exists. This is a form of commercial identity theft. By implementing online alerts your business can obtain an early warning of this type of problem and nip it in the bud rather than allowing it to escalate to the point where it materially impacts the viability of your business.
The Plaintiff is a California corporation in the business of manufacturing, supplying, producing, marketing, distributing, and selling vacuum cleaners and related parts and accessories. The Defendant is a competitor and allegedly posted the statement that the Plaintiff was “no longer making central vacuums”. This information was publicized on the Internet in conjunction with the alleged misappropriation by the Defendants of extensive photographs, content, and other material from the Plaintiff’s website.

The lawsuit claims copyright infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, libel, injurious falsehood, and trade libel. Plaintiff requests that all of the Defendants’ profits be held by a trustee appointed by the court for the benefit of the Plaintiff, that a complete accounting of all of Defendants’ profits be undertaken, and that the court award statutory damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, legal fees and costs. Traverse Internet Law Cross-Reference Number 1314.

FILED: 4/03/2009

You have to really read this lawsuit to get a feel for the extent of alleged misconduct by this Defendant. This is the type of attack your business is susceptible to on a daily basis. This type of situation is an all too common occurrence and must be managed very carefully to avoid a “mobosphere” attack from all regions of the world defending this individual’s right to “free speech”.
Sedgwick is a company that provides insurance claims management services for Fortune 500 companies. The Defendant was an employee of one of the Plaintiff’s clients, General Electric, and was unhappy with Sedgwick’s management of his claim for disability benefits filed against the plan serviced by Sedgwick. The Defendant has used copyrighted photographs of Sedgwick’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operation Officer on his website and blogs attacking the business, morphing those photographs into images of Adolph Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. The Defendant also unjustly accuses Sedgwick of engaging in criminal activity. In addition, the Defendant increased his attacks through what he himself described as “Operation Going Postcard”, which involves sending postcards through the U.S. Mail with the photographs of the CEO and COO of Sedgwick above captions reading “Wanted for Human Rights Violations” and other defamatory, false, and libelous claims. These postcards were sent to Sedgwick offices in California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, South Carolina, and Tennessee, to Sedgwick employees at their home addresses, to the home of Sedgwick’s CEO, to an outside insurance agency, to Sedgwick customers, and likely, according to the Plaintiff, to many others throughout the United States.

The lawsuit alleges trespass to channels, copyright infringement, interference with prospective economic advantage, trade libel, defamation and libel, and unfair competition. The court has been requested to issue an injunction against the Defendant’s misconduct, an award of statutory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and other relief that the court deems proper. Traverse Internet Law Cross-Reference Number 1315.

FILED: 4/02/2009

There is a difference between a “sucks” site and “gripe” site. “Sucks” sites often have economic or commercial motivation behind them, while a legitimate “gripe” site is motivated by the honest desire of the complainant to warn the public. In this case, there was a commercial use in the form of pay-per-click advertising or other commercial links to competitors hosted on the domain name. The fact that an “investment company” in Hong Kong acquired the domain name suggests, in and of itself, an economic motivation and not an underlying desire to protect the public through the dissemination of accurate information. This is a distinction that has not yet fully been recognized by the courts. Suffice it to say, anytime you are dealing with a “sucks” site or other derogatory website attacking your business, the first analysis is determining what the motivation of the owner of the site might be. There are very often commercial motivations that are not protected by free speech considerations in “sucks” sites, although in this instance the true motivation of the owner remains to be seen.

The Plaintiff is an investment company headquartered in Hong Kong. The Defendant is an airline organized under the laws of France. The Plaintiff lost a domain name dispute arbitration decision and the registrar of “airaustralsucks.com” was ordered to transfer the domain name to the airline. The “investment company” in Hong Kong has sued to set aside this decision.

The lawsuit requests that the court declare the Plaintiff’s registration and use of the domain name are lawful, and in effect overturn the domain name dispute decision, and award costs and reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees. Traverse Internet Law Cross-Reference Number 1312.