Internet Law

Law firm seeks to seize rival's URL; suit alleges 'hijacked' website traffic and content

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A lawsuit filed by an Aurora, Illinois, law firm claims a suburban Chicago rival increased its profits by $2 million over a two-year period by duplicating website content and confusing search engines.

The suit filed on Friday by Motta & Motta claims rival Dolci & Weiland placed tags on Motta’s website “to hijack Motta’s web traffic” and redirect visitors to Dolci. The suit also claims Dolci co-opted a Motta employee to send callers seeking a family law or criminal defense attorney to Dolci. The Register covered the lawsuit, filed Friday in Chicago federal court.

The suit alleges Dolci created a website that mirrored the design of Motta’s website, and copied verbatim some of Motta’s copyrighted articles and posts. Dolci then misrepresented the date of publication to conceal it had copied Motta content, the suit alleges.

The suit claims Dolci capitalized on Motta’s reputation by using website tags and headers to mislead search engines into believing Motta’s website is Dolci’s website. Dolci is based in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.

The suit cites an example of the problem. In September 2016, a search for “Aurora divorce attorney” that included the name of a Motta lawyer generated search results for Dolci, even though no lawyer by the same name appeared on Dolci’s website.

The suit seeks damages, but says money alone isn’t a sufficient remedy. Motta also seeks the assignment of all rights to Dolci & Weiland’s URL and the website pages, and the assignment of Dolci’s internet ranking to Motta. It also seeks an accounting of Dolci profits attributable to the alleged infringement.

The suit alleges violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, unfair competition law, civil conspiracy, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, and conversion of website property.

Dolci managing partner Dominick Dolci did not immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s message seeking comment.

Hat tip to Law360.

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