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Martin Samson, author of the Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions

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Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Unauthorized internet reseller of plaintiff’s products is not guilty of trademark infringement, and does not cause actionable initial interest confusion, by using plaintiff’s trademarks in meta tags of website at which plaintiff’s and its competitors’ products are sold, and in...

Blogs - Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions - Updated April 21, 2008

Case No. 1-04-CV-032178 (Superior Ct., Ca., March 11, 2005), writ of mandamus granted, court directed to quash subpoena and issue protective order, 139 Cal. App. 4th 1423, 2006 WL 142685 (Cal. App., 6th Dist., May 26, 2006)

Court denies bloggers' motion for a protective order, which sought to quash a subpoena served by plaintiff Apple Computer, Inc. ("Apple") on Nfox, the e-mail service provider for the blog PowerPage.  The subpoena sought materials, including e-mails, that would permit Apple to identify the individual(s) who transmitted trade secret information about an Apple product to PowerPage, which information PowerPage subsequently published on its blog/website.  The Court held that the bloggers were not entitled to such relief under California's 'Shield Law,' as that statute only protects journalists from being found in contempt for failing to produce information, and does not support a motion to quash.  Similarly, such relief could not be grounded on the privilege afforded journalists under the First Amendment, as this privilege cannot be used to prevent the disclosure of information related to criminal activity such as that at issue here, the disclosure of trade secrets.  Because Apple had made a prima facie case that a crime had occurred, it was entitled to the requested discovery.

C.A. No. 6:06-109-HMH (D.S.C. October 22, 2007)

Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the District Court dismisses defamation, trademark infringement, and invasion of privacy claims brought by plaintiffs against a blogger.  The claims arose out of defendant’s publication of articles on his blog, featuring plaintiff’s trademark, that were critical of plaintiffs’ eBay auction listing business. 

The Court held plaintiff’s trademark dilution claims failed because defendant used the mark in connection with “news reporting and news commentary,” a non-actionable use under the Federal dilution statute.  The Court held plaintiffs’ defamation claims failed because the statements at issue – which purportedly accused plaintiff Schmidt of being a “yes man” ‘who overpromised and underdelivered’ were non-actionable statements of opinion.  Finally, the Court held plaintiffs’ invasion of privacy claims – which were premised on a link on defendant’s blog to another site which contained a picture of plaintiffs – failed.  The Curt rested this holding on its determination both that South Carolina does not recognize a claim for false light invasion of privacy, and that, in any event, the link and article in question did not cast plaintiffs in a false light.  The Court also grounded its rejection of this claim on its holding that the link and corresponding use of the photo did not constitute a viable ‘wrongful appropriation of personalty’ invasion of privacy claim, given that plaintiffs had consented to the use of their photo on the internet site on which it was contained.

2007 WL 1300065 (Cal. Crt. App., 2d Dist., My 4, 2007)

Granting defendant’s motion pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Code Civ. Pro. Section 425.16, the court affirms the dismissal of plaintiff GTX Global Corp.’s (“GTX”) complaint, and awards defendant Andrew Left (“Left”) attorneys fees expended both in defending this suit and plaintiff’s appeal from the decision of the court below.  SLAPP is an acronym that stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”  GTX had sued Left, who runs the website, for publishing statements critical of GTX.  GTX charged that these statements were defamatory, and asserted claims of trade libel, interference with prospective economic advantage, and securities fraud against Left arising out of their publication.

The court found that Left’s statements were subject to the protections afforded by the anti-SLAPP statutes, because they addressed matter of public interest.  Finding that GTX had failed to submit any evidence that defendant’s challenged statements were false or defamatory, the court accordingly dismissed the suit.

No. 06-07-00123-CV (Texas Crt. of Appeals, December 12, 2007)

Following the decision of the Delaware Supreme Court in John Doe No. 1 v. Cahill, the Texas Court of Appeals holds that to obtain the identity of an anonymous individual who allegedly posted defamatory statements online, a plaintiff must submit evidence of the validity of his defamation claim sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment.  This, held the Court, requires the plaintiff to submit sufficient evidence of each element of his claim that is within his control – he is not required, however, before discovery of the speaker’s identity, to demonstrate that the speaker acted with ‘actual malice’, if such is an element of the defamation claim at issue.

Because the trial court directed the disclosure of the anonymous speaker’s identity without first requiring such a showing, the Court of Appeals conditionally granted the defendant’s application for a writ of mandamus, and remanded the case for further consideration in light of the Court’s opinion.

The Court further held that the Cable Communications Policy Act, 47 U.S.C.A. Section 551(2)(B), does not provide an independent basis for obtaining such disclosure.  While the statute does apply to requests in civil actions brought by private parties seeking to pursue defamation claims, the Court held it only permitted such disclosure pursuant to a properly issued ‘court order.’  This, in Texas, required submission of evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case, as stated above.

Case No. MS-07-6236-EJL-MHW (D. Idaho, November, 16, 2007)

Magistrate Judge grants in part and denies in part a motion to quash a subpoena issued pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).  The Magistrate Judge denied so much of the motion to quash which sought to prevent disclosure of the identity of the anonymous individual who posted a copy of a letter sent by a lawyer, for which the lawyer had obtained copyright registration, demanding the removal of other anonymous posts from a blog. 

The Court recommended granting so much of the motion to quash which sought to prevent disclosure of the identity of the anonymous individual who made the allegedly offensive posts that counsel sought to have removed in the demand letter in question.

139 Cal. App. 4th 1423, 2006 WL 1452685 (Cal. App. , 6th Dist., May 26, 2006)

Reversing the court below, the California Court of Appeals holds that the Stored Communications Act prohibits an ISP that hosted a blog's email account from disclosing e-mails sent to the blog in response to a subpoena issued in a civil litigation.  The subpoena sought production of e-mails that would permit Apple Computer ("Apple") to identify the individual(s) who transmitted trade secret information about an as yet unreleased Apple product to the blog/website Power Page, which information was the source of articles Power Page subsequently published on its blog/website.

The Court further held that petitioners, who acted as publishers of, and/or editors or reporters for, the news blogs that published the stories at issue about this Apple product, were entitled to a protective order against their disclosure of the confidential sources of their stories.  Notwithstanding Apple's claim that the information petitioners received from these services constituted trade secrets disclosed in violation of confidentiality agreements each of its employees had signed, the Court held such disclosure barred by both California's Reporter's Shield Law and the First Amendment.  The Court held that the Shield Law, which prohibits a court from holding in contempt a publisher, editor or reporter of "a newspaper, magazines or other periodical publication" for failing to disclose the source of a published story, protected petitioners, publishers and/or reporters of news blogs, from having to disclose the sources of the stories at issue.  The First Amendment similarly provided protection, given Apple's failure to fully exhaust other avenues of disclosure before pursuing discovery from petitioners.

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