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Litigation Web Sites Get Attention

There’s been a lot of talk this week about parties’ litigation Web sites — much of it stemming from OMS Investments, Inc. v. TerraCycle, Inc., a trade dress case STL wrote about last week. The Chicago IP Litigation Blog posted on the subject and linked to a Wall Street Journal article, both of which discuss the Web site that defendants established, www.SuedByScotts.com. The 43(b)log and The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog discussed the suit and the site as well.

Locally, I know of at least two trademark cases that have spawned Web sites: Autodesk, Inc. v. Open Design Alliance (discussed by STL here, here, and here) and Moonstruck Chocolate Co. v. Moonray Espresso Corp. (discussed by STL here, here, and here). Autodesk generated www.ADSKvODA.com. Moonstruck was vigorously discussed in the DuvallForums message board and, for a time, on a site whose name belies the owner’s loyalties, www.BoycottMoonstruck.com.

I can’t judge the impact these sites have on the cases they cover. But as a blogger I can say that I paid more attention to them knowing how closely they were being watched. I saw my traffic jump when I wrote about them. So, I kept writing about them. I can see that I’m not alone in reacting that way. The little New Jersey district court case of OMS Investments v. TerraCycle — one of one hundred such cases currently pending in federal district courts — has now been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even The Herald from Everett, Wash., weighing in on the dispute from 3,000 miles away. Similarly, the Moonstruck case landed on the front page of The Seattle Times, garnered a rare Seattle Times editorial, and was discussed in Portland’s The Oregonian. If nothing else, these sites seem to get attention.

That can be important for a small company. Forget about litigation for a minute — more attention can mean more sales. Today’s WSJ article bears this out. While the request for donations to defray legal costs on TerraCycle’s litigation site hasn’t yet paid off — WSJ reports the site has only raised $515 so far — “overall company sales for the four weeks since the online campaign launched surged 122% from the immediately previous four weeks. Last year, the company’s sales increased 31% in the same period. Meantime, TerraCycle’s main Web site, which averages about 1,000 visitors a day, has spiked to as high as 13,000, according to the company — and 2% to 4% of the visitors to suedbyscotts.com click the ‘purchase online’ or ‘store locator’ links.”

With numbers like these, litigation Web sites are probably here to stay.

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