Saturday, August 27, 2005

Fallwell vs Falwell

A victory for Fallwell over Falwell

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court and ruled that Christopher Lamparello did not violate the trademark of Jerry Falwell's falwell.com by operating his site fallwell.com. Lamparello uses his site to counter Falwell's homophobia, and Pastor Falwell has been harrassing him since 2001.

Larry O'Dell reports for the AP—

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ruled last August that Lamparello's domain name was nearly identical to the trademark bearing Falwell's name and could confuse Web surfers, despite a disclaimer noting that it is not affiliated with Falwell. The appeals court disagreed, citing the adversarial nature of the Lamparello's site.

"After even a quick glance at the content of the website ... no one seeking Reverend Falwell's guidance would be misled by the domain name www.fallwell.com into believing that Reverend Falwell authorized the content of that website," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in the opinion....

"No one would believe that Reverend Falwell sponsored a site criticizing himself, his positions, and his interpretations of the Bible."

But the Falwellians aren't quite finished—

Falwell's attorney, John H. Midlen Jr., said he will ask the full appeals court to reconsider the decision.

"We have argued from day one that the likelihood of confusion test relates only to the domain name itself and not to the content of the Web site, which is not known to the Internet surfer until they've already been confused by the domain name," Midlen said. "It is an argument we will be pressing forcefully to the full court."

The panel considered the "initial interest confusion theory" but ruled that it applies only when someone is trying to profit financially. No such motive existed in this case, the court said.

This was a good decision. Bloggers and other internet informants need to be aware of it. Are you ready for www.patrobertsin.com?
 

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