New Year Brings New 47 USC 230 Defense Win–Whitney Information Network v. Verio

By Eric Goldman

Whitney Information Network, Inc. v. Verio, Inc., 2006 WL 66724 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 11, 2006).

2005 was a great year for 47 USC 230 defense wins, so why not ring in 2006 with yet another? In this case, an education/training company discovers a competitive website that is allegedly using its trademarks and disparaging its services. The plaintiff goes after the website and its web host (in this case, Verio) for trademark infringement, defamation and interference with a business relationship. Verio moves for summary judgment on the latter two counts per 47 USC 230, and the court grants it in a typically pithy, no-nonsense and otherwise-unremarkable ruling.

This doesn’t end the case, however. The trademark claims are still active, and they could raise the thorny and unresolved question of when a web host is liable for contributory trademark infringement based on a user’s content/activities. (This question was expressly left open by Lockheed v. NSI).

Final note: this is the second time in the past 6 months that this plaintiff has lost a 47 USC 230 defense (the first time based on the ripoffreport.com website, this time based on johntreed.com).

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