Posted Dec 1, 2008 9:20 PM CST
By Margaret Graham Tebo
Jones Day has won numerous accolades for client service and litigation prowess, but one of its latest lawsuits has some scratching their heads. After a website that highlights expensive real estate transactions featured the home purchases of two firm attorneys, Jones Day sued the website, claiming trademark infringement and unfair competition.
Though the suit is still pending in federal court in Chicago, it already has sparked the ire of a variety of free-speech advocates, Internet scholars and legal bloggers, who say that no matter how distasteful the firm finds the website, Jones Day is just plain wrong in its attempts to stop BlockShopper.com.
“We think the suit is preposterous and never should have been brought,” says Corynne McSherry, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. The EFF filed an amicus brief in support of BlockShopper.
BlockShopper uses public records and the Internet to gather and publish details of high-end residential real estate transactions, according to co-founder Brian Timpone of Chicago.
While celebrity gossip websites have been doing that sort of thing for years, Jones Day didn’t take too kindly to the celebrity treatment. After BlockShopper posted two items about the Chicago condominium purchases of Jones Day associates Dan Malone and Jacob Tiedt, the firm sued, contending that BlockShopper’s use of images and information from its website constituted dilution of the firm’s trademark and infringed on its intellectual property.
The notion that consumers would be confused by seeing the firm’s name on the BlockShopper website is absurd, McSherry says.
“If linking to truthful information on a website is a trademark violation, the whole Internet is a trademark violation,” she says.
Neither Tiedt nor a spokesman for Jones Day returned phone calls seeking comment. Malone declined to discuss the suit.
“They’re embarrassed. They don’t want publicity,” Timpone says.
If that was their aim, the tactic may have backfired. Many bloggers who’d never heard of the BlockShopper site before the lawsuit now say they’re bookmarking it.