Monday, October 21, 2013

Supreme Court Takes a Pass on Wisconsin Woman's Privacy Suit Against Google

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The United States Supreme Court last week denied certiorari in Stayart v. Google, Inc. (Docket No. 12-1417), upholding the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit's dismissal of a Wisconsin woman's invasion of privacy suit against search engine colossus Google, Inc.

Beverly Stayart filed suit against Google, alleging misappropriation (Wis. Stat. 995.50(2)(b)) and invasion of her right to publicity, based on an alleged search engine query that linked her name to Levitra, a PDE5 inhibitor drug used to treat erectile dysfunction. In refusing to hear her appeal, the High Court sided with the Seventh Circuit finding that Google could defend against the bev stayart levitra search result allegation by asserting the public interest and incidental use defenses.

The appellate court  decision noted that Stayart had sued Yahoo! in January 2010, regarding the same search phrase, one month before that result allegedly began appearing in Google searches, as illustrated by the purported April 2010, Google search results appended to her Complaint as exhibits. Essentially, both the trial and appeals courts said Stayart's own actions generated "public interest" because court documents are a matter of public interest and search engines that lead those submitting queries to those documents should be protected by the public interest defense.

Google's successful defense to the misappropriation claim is grounded in Wisconsin's law that requires "a substantial rather than an incidental connection between the use [of a person's name for commercial purposes] and the defendant's commercial purposes." The court said Stayart failed to prove Google's purported efforts to derive revenues through linking her name and levitra was substantial.
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