Goldman Sachs Settles with Blogger in Trademark Infringement Dispute
Goldman Sachs and a Florida blogger recently settled over the issue of whether the blogger's websites infringed on Goldman Sachs' trademark rights. The settlement allows the blogger to continue use of the sites so long as there is a visible disclaimer that the sites are not affiliated with Goldman Sachs. When the blogger agreed to the disclaimer, the firm agreed that it would not proceed with its trademark infringement claims.
Mike Morgan, a Florida investment banker, created websites at www.goldmansachs666.com and www.goldmansachs13.com to share his personal opinions about Goldman Sachs, and the firm's profits. After viewing the sites, Goldman Sachs' attorney sent Morgan a cease-and-desist letter advising him that the sites infringed on the firm's protected rights. In response, Morgan filed suit in federal court in Florida, seeking a judgment that his sites were not in violation of federal intellectual property laws. In the settlement, the parties mutually agreed to dismiss the suit so long as a disclaimer is visible on the home pages of the sites and the sites are not used for commercial purposes.
The above serves as a reminder that sending a cease-and-desist letter threatening legal action may result in the sender having to defend itself in an out-of-state court. This is because such a threat may give the receiving party the right to go to court, which will be in that party's home state, and have a judge determine the rights of each party in the dispute. In this case, Goldman Sachs likely would have preferred to be in a New York court, but ended up in Florida.
This case also serves as a reminder that bloggers need to be mindful of the content of their blogs so as not to infringe on other parties' trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property rights. Another concern for bloggers, despite the First Amendment, is the threat of a lawsuit alleging libel or slander, which would hold the bloggers responsible for false information that damages the reputation or goodwill of a business or person. In sum, bloggers should be aware that their blogging could subject them to claims from businesses or individuals desiring to protect their trademarks or reputation.
-- Originally published in Larkin Hoffman's IP/Tech Buzz.
*Breanna Christensen is a J.D. candidate at Hamline University Law School and is a 2009 summer law clerk at Larkin Hoffman.