[Politech] Public Citizen wins nice victory in car dealer critic case [fs]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Mon Sep 29 2003 - 22:00:40 PDT

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    Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 15:57:40 -0400
    From: "Paul Levy" <PLEVY@private>
    To: <declan@private>
    Subject: Encouraging IP lawyers to stop and think before they sue......
    My colleague Amanda Frost has had a nice development recently in a case
    filed in federal court in Alabama against a Tom Ballock, a consumer who
    established a web site about a local car dealer.
    The dealer rushed into court and got a preliminary injunction against
    Ballock, who defended himself pro se.  Amanda then got involved and
    persuade the judge to lift the preliminary injunction.  After taking
    Ballock's deposition, the plaintiff gave up and dismissed the suit.
    There is an account of the progress of the litigation on Ballock's site:
    Lat week, the judge granted our motion for an award of damages against
    the preliminary injunction bond that was wrongfully issued against
    Ballock.  The judge explained why the injunction should not have been
    granted -- although Ballock uses the dealer's name in his domain name,
    there is a very strong disclaimer of affiliation at the top of his site,
    so nobody could be confused, and the site was completely noncommercial.
    Consequently  and then gives Ballock $766.45 in out of pocket expenses,
    $4000 in mental anguish damages, and $2000 for the injury to his free
    speech rights.  (The judge was also quite complementary to Amanda,
    making clear that Ballock's ultimate victory was due to his securing
    "highly competent representation" after he received  the preliminary
    The case stands as yet another reminder to IP attorneys to stop and
    think  before they bring questionable trademark claims against
    individual dissenters in the hope that they can smash them before they
    can get a lawyer.  Sometimes, even a win on a quick preliminary
    injunction can come back to haunt their clients!
    Paul Alan Levy
    Public Citizen Litigation Group
    1600 - 20th Street, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20009
    (202) 588-1000
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