Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Suit Suit, Suit Suit Suit

Yup, it's lawsuit time.

Remember Alexis Kouros from about this time last year? Well, he's come up with an interesting idea for a lawsuit, as Phil at Finland for Thought notes:

It all started a year ago when Alexis Kouros got my Google Ads pulled by falsely claiming to represent YLE, STT, and Iltasanomat - that didn’t work, Google quickly turned them back on. I gained legal representation and soon filed a complaint about Kouros’ actions. Next, Kouros contacted the police and claimed criminal libel, the police conducted their investigation and dropped all charges. Kouros had previous filed a criminal complaint to the editors of Ovi Magazine, those charges were dropped as well. He’s also demanded that threads involving his name be removed from other online forums. So now he’s hired the law firm Borenius & Kemppinen to sue me in the Helsinki civil courts. I sincerely fear what he’ll do next....

Fortunately all his charges are completely bogus, here’s a few highlights…

- After Kouros had lied to Google, claiming to legally represent YLE, STT, and Iltasanomat which forced Google to shut down my ads, I called him a “big fat liar”. Alexis claims I was making fun of his weight by calling him “fat”. (I died laughing after reading this accusation)

- According to the papers sent to me by Borenius & Kemppinen, Alexis newspaper business is performing poorly…and yes, I am to blame.

- I used a tiny, low-res black&white photo of him without his permission.

- I called him a “conservative” in this blog post. (Yes, Alexis Kouros thinks being called “conservative” is a crime!)

- I am liable for edits people write in his Wikipedia profile.

- I am liable for each of comments written by you all (there are tens of thousands of them) on this blog. So I am legally responsible for all the negative things you’ve written about him. That makes this truly a landmark court case.

Well, I don't have to worry about mentioning Alexis Kouros in this blog, since I'm outside of the jurisdiction of Helsinki courts, and obviously this kind of junk wouldn't happen in the United States.

Unfortunately, that was a joke - a bad joke, as Francine Hardaway reports:

What do you do when you run a site that is composed of user-generated reviews and one company, whose products get bad reviews, begins to spam your site with fake reviews, comments linking to fake websites, and then turns around and sues you for trademark infringement because you have used their product name?

That is what is happening to Realself.com, the startup in Seattle that I'm blogging for.

Realself.com provides more information:

[W]e responded to a Complaint made against RealSelf.com by Lifestyle Lift Holdings, a firm that markets the Lifestyle Lift. The Lifestyle Lift is marketed as a "minor one hour" facial firming procedure. Some patients who've had this procedure have shared on RealSelf.com both positive and negative experiences by writing Lifestyle lift reviews and adding over 1,000 comments to the RealSelf.com beauty forum....

In January, Lifestyle Lift Holdings filed a Complaint against RealSelf in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan asserting trademark infringement. We believe that their allegations are false and that their Complaint is a misuse of trademark protection law. It's our opinion that this lawsuit in an attempt to silence critics within our community. Lifestyle Lift does not have the right to do so....

[W]e filed an answer to their Complaint...and responded with our own counter-complaint against Lifestyle Lift Holdings and Scientific Image Center Management, Inc., a company we believe is affiliated with Lifestyle Lift. We believe they have violated our terms of use by posing as patients posting reviews on our site, which is misleading and unfair to our community. These sort of fabricated posts threaten our community’s trust in us. We have no choice but to challenge these actions.

In filing the counter-complaint, we are seeking damages and asking the court to permanently enjoin Lifestyle Lift, Scientific Image Center Management, Inc., or their agents from posting comments on RealSelf.com.

If you want to find out more about Lifestyle Lift, check their website, an account of a similar suit against infomercialscams.com, and this Eric Goldman comment:

[R]egardless of who wins these specific lawsuits, Lifestyle Lift will never succeed at stifling negative discussion about its offerings. This may just be another painful lesson in the power of online word of mouth.

Meanwhile, Alexis Kouros was a no-show at the preliminary hearing in his suit; only his lawyers attended.

Perhaps he was getting a Lifestyle Lift.

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