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In ‘Fig Leaf’ Settlement With Jones Day, Website Agrees to Adjust Use of Links

Posted Feb 12, 2009 5:53 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: In a "fig leaf" settlement entered into by BlockShopper after it racked up a six-figure legal defense bill in a controversial federal trademark infringement lawsuit, the website has agreed to alter the way it describes home purchases by Jones Day attorneys.

Instead simply "deep linking" the name of a Jones Day attorney buying a home to his or her law firm biography, BlockShopper has agreed to do so in a manner specified by the law firm, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A copy of the settlement agreement (PDF) is provided by the Am Law Daily.

Under the new format agreed to in the settlement, BlockShopper will link the Jones Day law firm biography to a spelled-out law firm Web address following the lawyer's name, Brian Timpone, the website's founder, tells the ABA Journal. "In other words," the Plain Dealer explains, "instead of writing 'Daniel P. Malone Jr. is an associate in the Chicago office of Jones Day,' "—and linking the law firm biography to Malone's name—"BlockShopper must write 'Malone (www.jonesday.com/dpmalone) is an associate ... .' "

BlockShopper has also agreed not to use any Jones Day website photo without prior permission from the law firm, according to the settlement.

Although Jones Day offered early on to settle the case for $10,000, "We of course said no," Timpone tells the ABA Journal. BlockShopper went on instead to rack up a legal bill of $110,000 defending itself in litigation that a number of observers criticized as lacking a legitimate basis.

"There's a huge principle at stake here, whether a law firm can use its unlimited resources to muzzle a smaller guy on the Web," he says.

When BlockShopper offered to link differently to Jones Day, however, the law firm agreed to the "fig leaf" settlement, which wasn't confidential, Timpone continues.

To explain to website users who may be confused about why home purchases by Jones Day attorneys are formatted differently, BlockShopper plans to link to a webpage explaining what happened in the lawsuit, Timpone tells the Plain Dealer.

Attorney Paul Levy, who works for Public Citizen, is encouraging people to "replicate the lesson to Jones Day," the Plain Dealer reports, by posting hyperlinks to the firm much as BlockShopper originally did. The message he hopes to send to the law firm? "Big boy, try it again."

The Cleveland-based international law firm didn't respond to the newspaper's request for comment.

Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal represented BlockShopper in the Jones Day case.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Judge Allows Jones Day Suit Over Web Posts About Attorney Home Purchases"

Citizen Media Law Project: "Jones Day v. BlockShopper LLC"

Updated at 12:45 p.m. on Feb. 13 to include comments from Timpone to ABA Journal and link to Citizen Media Law Project website.

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