March 2007 Quick Links Part 2

By Eric Goldman

Yesterday I posted the Google edition of my list of interesting items from March. Today I post the remainder of items that caught my eye last month.

Trademarks/Brands

* Bosley Medical Institute v. Kremer, 2007 WL 935708 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 22, 2007). On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the district court denies Kremer’s motions to dismiss/for SJ. Michael Atkins recaps the ruling and case’s history.

* Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP v. Milbank Holding Corp. d/b/a Milbank Real Estate Services, No. CV 06-187-RGK (JTLx), (C.D. Cal. Feb. 23, 2007). After passage of the Trademark Dilution Revision Act, the court rejects the existence of “niche fame” as support for a dilution action. I’m a little surprised that this plaintiff would bring this losing argument.

* ICANN votes down a .XXX TLD. Again.

* NYT on the increasing challenges of creating a unique global brand in very crowded namespaces.

* Trademarked Sentences: A tool that helps you generate poetry by mixing trademarked slogans.

Blogs/UGC

* BidZirk v. Smith, No. 06-1487 (4th Cir. March 6, 2007). The Fourth Circuit, in a non-substantive opinion, denied a company’s request for an injunction against a griping blogger’s use of its trademarks. My initial write-up of the case. With this loss, the plaintiff’s ill-advised decision to appeal the case is now even more clearly a complete waste of the plaintiff’s money and our judicial resources.

* Chapman v. Merchandise Mart Properties, 2007 WL 922258 (D. Vt. Mar. 23, 2007). Woman tries to get TRO against physical-space trade show based on trademark interests in the term “GreenStyle,” which is her blog’s title. The court rejects the request, but interestingly doesn’t seem fazed by the argument that she may have a trademark interest generated from her blog name. Blog names can be trademarkable with sufficient use in commerce, a factor the court ignored completely.

* Sifry: “70 million weblogs. About 120,000 new weblogs each day, or…1.4 new blogs every second.”

* A nice retrospective on the history of blogging.

* Wikipedia is requiring some credentialing after getting burned by a pseudonymous contributor who falsely claimed he was a professor.

* Ed Felten has some terrific observations about building distributed reputation systems like Digg (and, for that matter, Epinions). Ed is 100% correct that reputation systems need substantial stabilization; they don’t just work deus ex machina.

Contracts

* Dorr v. Yahoo, No 3:07-cv-01428-MJJ (N.D. Cal. complaint filed March 7, 2007). Yahoo offered a premium subscription service allowing users to send email without Yahoo’s ads attached. Then, allegedly, they changed the service’s terms, and some of the paying customers were unilaterally bumped to a tier where Yahoo’s ads were again attached to their email. Steve Bryant has more. In general, if people pay to eliminate ads, during that period of time, Yahoo should not be able to unilaterally amend the terms so that the user is paying but still getting ads.

* Ken Adams blogs on Affinity Internet, Inc. v. Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Inc., 920 So. 2d 1286 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2006), where the court held that a contract clause saying “This contract is subject to all of SkyNetWEB’s terms, conditions, user and acceptable use policies located at http://www.skynetweb.com/company/legal/legal.php” was insufficient to incorporate an arbitration clause contained in the referenced document. Ken’s suggested fix: “The SkyNetWEB user agreement located at http://www.skynetweb.com/company/legal/legal.php constitutes part of this agreement.”

Government Agencies

* The National Do Not Call Registry: Annual Report to Congress for FY 2006 Pursuant to the Do Not Call Implementation Act On Implementation of the National Do Not Call Registry (April 2007): “The Commission believes that the fundamental goal of the National Do Not Call Registry — to provide consumers with a simple, free, and effective means to limit unwanted telemarketing calls — has been realized.” My curmudgeonly take on why the do-not-call registry isn’t great policy.

* Implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act: A Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress (February 2007). The FTC remains pretty pleased with itself about COPPA, but it’s worried about social networking sites and the continuing lack of age verification technology. I’m not as impressed with COPPA as the FTC is; see here and here. In any case, if you’re doing COPPA research, this report helpfully recounts the 12 COPPA enforcement actions to date.

* Hard to believe, but payola busts are still being made. The latest: a $12.5M settlement. See the NYT and WaPo .

* Terrific post by the EFF’s Seth Schoen about a misguided report on P2P file sharing by the USPTO and the issues with empowering users to control their computers. A must-read.

Miscellaneous

* ACLU v. Gonzales, No. 98-559 (E.D. Pa. March 22, 2007). On remand from the Supreme Court, the court once again holds that the 1998 Child Online Protection Act is unconstitutional.

* CRS Report for Congress: An Overview of Recent U.S. Supreme Court Jurisprudence in Patent Law, March 16, 2007, discussing the last 8 Supreme Court patent cases.

* We’ve all heard about the magic of network effects. But as this Mercury News article explains, when an Internet start-up company’s network takes root principally overseas, it can leave the company with a large audience of unmonetizable users.

* Jacob Loshin, Property in the Horizon: The Theory and Practice of Sign and Billboard Regulation, 30 Environs 101 (2006). A thoughtful discussion of the history of billboard regulation and some regulatory considerations.

* Coca-Cola’s launch campaign for “Coke Zero” is premised on the idea that the executives of Coca-Cola want to sue the executives of Coke Zero (i.e., other executives within the same company) for “taste infringement” because the taste is so similar. Personally, I find commercials about faux lawsuits HILARIOUS. Ha ha ha. Except…if there isn’t currently a cause of action for “taste infringement,” with the expansion of IP rights, it may only be a matter of time… This turns the joke about how hard it would be to establish taste infringement on its head. Ironically, the commercial features Coke’s actual lawyers. Yet more on this sorry story.

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