Western District Quashes Subpoena Intended to Learn Owner of Gripe Site
July 27, 2010
Michael Atkins in First Amendment, Seattle Updates

Still anonymous: Screen shot from defendant’s Internet gripe site

The anonymous John Doe runs the Internet gripe site, www.SaleHooSucks.com, which criticizes plaintiff SaleHoo Groups, Ltd.

SaleHoo is a New Zealand limited liability company that offers a database of wholesalers and brokers of goods that can be sold on eBay, and sells memberships that authorize access to the database.

Mr. Doe’s site claims that SaleHoo threatens individuals who post unfavorable information about SaleHoo with defamation lawsuits and thus “there is no way to get true unbiased reviews of SaleHoo.” 

SaleHoo, which owns the trademark SALEHOO, filed suit in the Western District against Mr. Doe for for trademark infringement, among other claims. 

SaleHoo moved for leave to take immediate discovery, which the court granted. SaleHoo then served a subpoena on GoDaddy.com, the SaleHooSucks.com registrar, seeking to learn the registrant’s identity. GoDaddy gave notice of the subpoena to Mr. Doe, who moved to quash it.

Since Mr. Doe had notice of the subpoena and had an opportunity to be heard, the court found the controlling question was whether “SaleHoo alleged facially valid claims and produced prima facie evidence to support of the elements of these claims within its control?” The court answered the question in the negative.

“Here, the court finds that SaleHoo has not met its burden to make a prima facie showing with respect to likelihood of confusion. Doe plainly uses ‘SaleHoo’ in its domain name and throughout its website, but it is not evident how Doe’s use is confusing or whether it has caused actual confusion. The court is particularly mindful that the average Internet user is unlikely to believe that <www.salehoosucks.com> is either an official SaleHoo website or in any way sponsored or approved by SaleHoo.”

Therefore, the court granted Mr. Doe’s motion to quash the subpoena.

The case cite is SaleHoo Group, Ltd. v. ABC Company, __ F. Supp.2d __, 2010 WL 2773801, No. 10-0671 (W.D. Wash. July 12, 2010) (Robart, J.).

Article originally appeared on Michael Atkins (http://seattletrademarklawyer.com/).
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