Jay Parkhill March 3rd, 2008
Prof. Eric Goldman of Santa Clara University is a reliable source of updates on "Internet law". This is a good summary of a tough situation:
LifeStyle finds itself being maligned in RealSelf’s online forums. Established law says that RealSelf can not be held liable for statements made by third parties, so what’s an aggrieved business to do?
Lifestyle Lift goes after the forum owner for misuse of its trademarks. The argument is mostly a dog- one can use another’s trademark to identify the business it relates to, but not profit from the mark. The expense of litigation, however, usually makes people decide that removing the allegedly-infringing content is a better course of action.
RealSelf may well win on the merits of the infringement claim, but it’ll still be out a bunch of cash on the defense, and the breach-of-terms-of-use counterclaim isn’t going to bring a whole lot of that back.
I don’t know any of the underlying facts of this case (were the critiques accurate?) so I won’t take sides. As a UGC junkie, I am strongly in the camp that people should be free to post their opinions of products, including negative ones. There are limits, though. Businesses also need ways to protect their reputations against untruthfulness and outright slander.Tags: Intellectual Property, trademarks