A South Carolina jury recently awarded a US$70,250 verdict against Bright Builders, Inc. Never before has a third party web host company been liable for contributory trademark infringement without actually receiving notification from the trademark owner that their patron’s domain promotes forged goods for sale. South Carolina Dist. jdg. M. Seymour’s Mar 14 2011 judgment in “Roger Cleveland Golf Co. versus Prince” came after the jury’s March 10 verdict.
The jury awarded a $2,750 statutory redress verdict against website owners Christopher Prince and his business Prince Distribution LLC for trademark counterfeiting and infringement.
The panel found that Bright Builders and Christopher Prince are both guilty for Prince’s website, for selling counterfeit products.
Christopher Finnerty the Plaintiff’s lead attorney said of Third Party Internet Service Providers:
“They can’t remain willfully blind and wait for the brand owner to provide notice”
“A web-hosting company’s obligation is similar to that of a landlord’s”, Finnerty declared.
“A landlord doesn’t have the obligation to act as an investigator against his tenants to find out they are doing anything illegal, but once they knew or should have known, they have to act” Mr. Finnerty said. “How is that any different online?”
“The defendant Bright Builders basically had a heightened duty and they didn’t comply with it” attorney for Bright Builders Christopher Lizzi said. “The jury came back knowing my client acknowledged his fault in this in the beginning and was trying to be lenient on him.”
I believe this is a wonderful example where the common people of a jury bring justice, wisdom and equity back into the justice system which is too often mis-interpreted by judges who will reconstruct the original intent of a law such as §230(c) of the CDA at the expense of equity. I hope that in the not too distant future the same finding will be made by jurors with respect to third-party ISPs and Search Engines that refuse to delete malicious,deceptive, denigrative and emotionally debilitating statements made by anti-social antagonists leveled against their helpless victims. Unfortunately, the managers who make policy strategies for these Internet hosts, blog sites and Search Engines will often leave their consciences at home for the sake of their corporation’s bottom line profits. They give little or no consideration for the phsycological and vocational costs borne by the targets of the antagonist’s fulmination.
Libel is seen by most nations, including the USA to be a personal injury; a third-party ISP or Search Engine should be as socially responsible with respect to removing fictitious and hurtful internet publications as their staff would be to stop a thug is trouncing a little olf lady on the sidewalk.
Above, the attorney Finnerty so concisely but rhetorically asks us: “How is that any different online?”….; I now ask my readers the same question with respect to online defamation, internet libel and cyber bullying. But it is not rehtorical, please communicate your views in the comments section below.