Seventh Circuit Tosses Beverly Stayart’s False Endorsement Claims–Stayart v. Yahoo

By Eric Goldman

Stayart v. Yahoo! Inc., 2010 WL 3785147 (7th Cir. Sept. 30, 2010).

I have previously blogged about Beverly Stayart’s lawsuits against Yahoo and Google for apparently sploggy (and possibly cloaked) objectionable search results delivered when she searched on her name. Whatever sympathy I might otherwise feel for her is overridden by the lawsuits’ complete lack of merit.

Yesterday, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her false endorsement claims against Yahoo. My prior posts on the district court opinion and her initial complaint. The court efficiently points out that she has not made a use in commerce of her name sufficient to trigger Lanham Act protection, and therefore she lacks standing for a false endorsement claim.

Stayart argued that her humanitarian/charitable work satisfies the Lanham Act commerciality requirement. This is a nonsense argument that the court easily rejects: “While Stayart’s goals may be passionate and well-intentioned, they are not commercial. And the good name that a person garners in such altruistic feats is not what § 43 of the Lanham Act protects.” The Lanham Act’s false endorsement provisions are not a general purpose publicity right.

The district court cited two other reasons (beyond standing) to dismiss the case, including an analytically confused 47 USC 230 defense. The Seventh Circuit opinion did not address the 230 issue at all.

While this *should* be the end of Stayart’s litigation, it probably won’t be. She can refile her state law claims against Yahoo in state court. She also still has a pending lawsuit against Google.

An aside: It’s been a busy Cyberlaw week at the Seventh Circuit, including uBID v. GoDaddy, Chicago v. Craigslist and now this opinion.