Go Ahead and Spout Off on the Web. But It Can Cost You
When companies sue critics, they win even when they lose
By Emma Schwartz
Companies are beginning to take note of these rulings, and some are holding their legal fire in favor of a quieter resolution. Says Joseph Berghammer, a professor of trademark law at Northwestern University: "While you might win the legal battle you may have lost the public relations one."
As for the critics' battles, they are not always easily won. Philip Smith, a South Carolina computer consultant, hired a local eBay drop-off, BidZirk, to help get rid of a backlog of computer parts. He alleges in court filings that the company sold the parts for half the "appraised eBay value," cutting his profit. He detailed his troubles in a blog entry called "You Gotta Be Berserk To Use An eBay Listing Company."
Within weeks BidZirk sued him for trademark infringement and defamation. Although he has won a number of motions over the past two years, he has spent hundreds of hours defending himself and lost income. In other words, he says, even if he wins, he's lost.
* I'm the Philip Smith mentioned here.
Several attorneys with whom I've consulted say that if I had an attorney on retainer I'd be in the upper six figures by now defending this lawsuit against me. The paperwork and bureaucracy of the court and from the opposing attorney interferes greatly with my day to day activities and my emotional capacity to deal with life's every day stress. Thank goodness it seems to be coming to a close. I'm waiting for the judge's order to file a "malicious litigation, defamation, harassment, and breach of contract suit" against the Plaintiff.