Jones Day Lawyers Apparently Don’t Know the Law

by on September 22, 2008 · 25 comments

[The following post discusses a matter of public interest and people who have brought public attention upon themselves. It contains only expressions of opinion and recitations of facts that I believe in good faith to be true. It should be clear, and I urge you to be clear, that the only service provider discussed in the post, involved in authoring the post, or involved in publishing the post is the law firm Jones Day and its attorneys. Let there be no confusing that this is all about Jones Day. Since it's a post critical of Jones Day, there should be no implication to anyone that Jones Day could possibly endorse the content of this post or this blog. I say all this so that any nitwit attorney who thinks this blog post gives him or her a cause of action will be on notice that nothing said here violates trademark law, everything here is protected speech under the First Amendment, and that no cause of action can possibly lie against any person for this publication.]

It’s fascinating sometimes to see lawyers with an abundance of power and no sense of judgment – especially big-firm lawyers who shouldn’t exhibit their poor judgment and ignorance of basic legal doctrine to current and prospective clients.

But the law firm of Jones Day has some lawyers working for it who really don’t seem to have a clue about trademark law. I never practiced trademark law, and I seem to know more about it than they do.

The case is well described on the Citizen Media Law Project Web site.

Founded in 2006, BlockShopper.com is a start-up local online real estate news service covering Chicago, South Florida, Las Vegas, and St. Louis. Its reporting staff is made up of ex-print journalists who collect public real estate sales data, then use information in the public domain (e.g. company web sites) to write news stories about recent transactions. . . . Three [BlockShopper stories] reported the real estate transactions of partners and associates from Jones Day, the large international law firm.

Jones Day sued BlockShopper.com on Aug. 12, 2008 in federal court in Illinois. The complaint alleges that Blockshopper.com infringed and diluted the firm’s service mark and violated state trademark and unfair competition laws by using the word “Jones Day” when referring to the real estate transactions of Jones Day attorneys, linking to its site and using lawyers’ photos from its site. The firm contends that these activities creates the false impression that Jones Day is affiliated with or sponsors BlockShopper.com.

Jones Day sought a temporary restraining order preventing BlockShopper from writing about its lawyers or linking to its web site. . . . Jones Day told BlockShopper it would drop the case if BlockShopper paid it $10,000 and agreed to never write about its lawyers’ real estate transactions again, according to the National Law Journal. BlockShopper declined the offer.

Some exhibits to the Jones Day lawsuit are here. It shows the demand letters that a Jones Day attorney named Meredith M. Wilkes sent. She’s a partner in the Cleveland office specializing in – believe it or not – intellectual property. Her letters, and the complaint she filed with another Jones Day attorney named Paul Schroeder, appear to me to reflect an embarrassing ignorance of trademark law. It’s pretty darn obvious that the uses Blockshopper made of Jones Day’s name, and the names and images of Jones Day lawyers, don’t violate Jones Day‘s rights.

Yet these lawyers signed the Jones Day firm onto a lawsuit, the only basis of which could be some absurd extension of trademark to where it obviously doesn’t belong. It’s foolishness. And it makes Jones Day look bad. Jones Day, the big law firm. It looks like its attorneys don’t know the law. People could say, “The lawyers at Jones Day, they’re not my kinda lawyers.”

  • Marlee Taankos

    Meredith Wilkes deserves more respect than you have shown her…on the racquetball court that is.

    Maybe she is doing one of those “How To Lose All My Clients In 10 Days” magazine pieces.

  • Carme

    The trademark and linking claims are bogus, but I think posting the images actually is copyright infringement. If it weren't, any publication could put copyrighted images next to any related text, which is probably not the case. Do you think differently?
    IANAL.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    The Jones Day suit didn't allege any copyright violations – perhaps because the owner of the copyrights in the images they have on their Web sites is the photographer who took them. And news reporting is listed in the Copyright Act as purpose of using copyrighted material that is fair use. Perhaps Jones Day lawyers DO understand copyright law! [n.b., Criticism and comment are also listed fair uses of copyrighted material.]

  • James

    Sadly, that is a wonderfully written post.

    Some day I'd love to have my country back.

  • Carme

    I haven't seen the actual lawsuit so I'll take your word for it. The letters speak vaguely of “proprietary material” which I assumed includes the photographs.
    It's possible that the copyright in the images belongs to the photographer but it's much more likely they were works for hire and belong to the firm.
    As for fair use, the purpose of the reproduction is just one of four criteria for fair use; another one is how extensive the reproduction is, in this case the whole work. I find it hard to believe that this is acceptable fair use of a copyrighted photograph; as I said before, that would mean that any publication – a newspaper, a website, a blog – that “reports” on anything can use any copyrighted picture that relates to the text. That sounds implausible to me. Again, IANAL.
    If the firm does hold the copyright to the photographs they should be scorned, not commended, for failing to use the one claim where they had a chance.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    Documents from the case are on the Citizen Media Law page.

  • Law Student

    Jones Day has no case. This seems to be a clear-cut case of descriptive fair-use.

  • http://www.duilawyersonline.net DUI Lawyers Online

    I haven't seen the actual lawsuit so I'll take your word for it. The letters speak vaguely of “proprietary material” which I assumed includes the photographs.
    It's possible that the copyright in the images belongs to the photographer but it's much more likely they were works for hire and belong to the firm

  • http://www.blockshoppervictim.com/ Lisa

    BlockShopper is responsible for a grotesque invasion of privacy that recently caused a woman to be raped by a former boyfriend/stalker after she moved to avoid him & then blockshopper posted her personal information online (http://www.blockshoppervictim.com). She even asked them to take down the info but they did not. Jones Day did exactly what the government did to the mafia. They didn't / couldn't get them on murder. So, they got them on tax evasion. BlockShopper is disgusting and what they do needs to be stopped. Putting BlockShopper out of business with legal bills for copyright infringement is just fine with me since nobody can get them on a privacy invasion complaint . They refuse to take their “news stories” down, regardless of the circumstances. James – I want my country back too – meaning I want the right to live in peace w/o my privacy being violated for someone else's profit.

  • Terry

    It is unfortunate that people feel the need to seek out a lawsuit for little to no reason, but it happens all the time. A lot of these companies are looking for any possible way to start a problem and I have heard of a number of large companies that actually employ people to search the web and find any potential copyright infringers.

    Terry
    real estate license

  • Terry

    It is unfortunate that people feel the need to seek out a lawsuit for little to no reason, but it happens all the time. A lot of these companies are looking for any possible way to start a problem and I have heard of a number of large companies that actually employ people to search the web and find any potential copyright infringers.

    Terry
    real estate license

  • Terry

    It is unfortunate that people feel the need to seek out a lawsuit for little to no reason, but it happens all the time. A lot of these companies are looking for any possible way to start a problem and I have heard of a number of large companies that actually employ people to search the web and find any potential copyright infringers.

    Terry
    real estate license

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