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Intellectual Property

Lawyer’s snarky response to cease-and-desist letter suggests the sender is joking or ‘a big meanie’

Posted Jun 19, 2013 8:09 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Surely the lawyer for a New Jersey township is not “a big meanie.”

That’s the assertion in a pro bono lawyer’s response to a cease-and-desist letter—which has hit Buzzfeed and has been viewed around 300,000 times—seeking to shut down a website using the domain name westorange.info. The website, operated by a West Orange resident, has information about the town.

The lawyer who wrote the cease-and-desist letter is Richard Trenk, who represents the New Jersey township of West Orange. The lawyer who responded is Stephen Kaplitt. Above the Law published both letters, calling Kaplitt's missive an “epic letter.”

The West Orange resident who operates the website is Jake Freivald, a former losing candidate for town council, Above the Law says. Trenk informs Freivald his website is “is unauthorized and is likely to cause confustion” (the typo is Trenk’s). Trenk goes on to demand that Freivald cease using the domain name and “anything else confusingly similar thereto.”

Kaplitt responds with some snark. “I am pro bono counsel to Jack Freivald and write in response to your ‘cease and desist letter,’” Kaplitt writes. “Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire. Bravo, Mr. Trenk!

“Not that we didn’t get the joke … but since Mr. Freivald has not previously encountered a humorous lawyer, he actually thought your letter may have been a serious effort by the Township to protect its legitimate interests. Rest assured, I’ve at least convinced him that it was certainly not some impulsive, ham-fisted attempt to bully a local resident solely because of his well-known political views. After all, as lawyers you and I both know that would be flagrantly unconstitutional and would also, in the words of my 4-year-old son, make you a big meanie.”

Kaplitt points out several other domain names incorporate the name “West Orange,” including westorangebassanglers.com and westorangemassagetherapy.com. Kaplitt then goes on to say he could make some points if Trent had intended his cease-and-desist letter to be taken seriously. This is the first:

“The suggestion that Mr. Frievald’s website is ‘likely to cause confusion’ or ‘falsely create the impression’ of association with the Township is farcical. As is evident from the attached home page snapshots, the Township’s website is a ‘virtual’ masterpiece developed by Icon Enterprises …. at a cost to West Orange taxpayers of $35,000 (plus $5,000 per annum for hosting and maintenance). By contrast, my client’s rudimentary website (cost: $3.17, free hosting), is so minimalist that it arguably qualifies as modern art.”

This is Kaplitt’s fifth point: “So that I may properly counsel my client, please explain what in Sam Hill’s name you meant by ‘anything confusingly similar thereto.’ ”

Kaplitt goes on to ask Trenk for legal authority supporting his assertions and offers to donate $100 to the American Civil Liberties Union if he can produce “anything that even remotely passes the laugh test.”

Also see:

ABAJournal.com: "Jack Daniel’s Cease-and-Desist Letter Goes Viral for Being Exceedingly Polite"

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