Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Federal Judge Stays Order Identifying Anonymous Wikipedia Editors in Trademark Infringement Case

Wordmark from Wikipedia logo 2.0Image via WikipediaUnited States District Court Judge for the District of Colorado Christine Arguello this week stayed a magistrate's order that would have required  Internet Service Provider Skybeam to disclose the identities of anonymous Wikipedia editors who claimed Facconable USA Corporation sympathized with a terrorist organization.

In Facconable USA Corporation v. John Does 1-10 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00941-CMA-BNB), the plaintiff, part of the M1 Group owned by Najib Makati, Lebanon's Prime Minister, sued anonymous posters who submitted an entry on the company's Wikipedia page alleging that Facconable USA Corp.'s parent M1 Group "is purported to be a strong supporter of Hezbollah," according to Courthouse News Service.  The plaintiff's 9-page complaint includes counts alleging a trademark infringement violation of the Lanham Act [15 U.S.C. sec. 1125(a)], trade libel and violation of Colorado's Consumer Protection Act [C.R.S. sec. 6-1-101 et seq.].

A magistrate granted plaintiff's request for expedited discovery, ordering ISP Skybeam to reveal the IP addresses identifying the anonymous posters by June 3.  Skybeam, assisted by Public Citizen, sought judicial review of the denial of their motion for a protective order.

Judge Arguello granted a stay of the magistrate's order, relying on four factors: 1)the likelihood of success of the ISP's appeal; 2)whether irreparable harm would occur if the stay were denied; 3)the absence of harm to opposing parties if the stay were granted and 4)the risk of harm to the public interest. Judge Arguello concluded the anonymous posters' First Amendment rights to speak anonymously would be compromised if the magistrate's order went forward, whereas the only harm to the plaintiff in allowing the stay would be a slight delay of its litigation.

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