Blockshopper Calls In The Cavalry To Defend Against Suit

James KlenkA high-powered First Amendment attorney has agreed to represent real estate news site Blockshopper, which is being sued by law firm Jones Day for trademark infringement lawsuit for having linked to the firm's Web site.

The attorney, James Klenk of the large Chicago law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, has long counted mainstream news organizations like The Chicago Tribune among his clients. The move comes just days after federal district court judge John Darrah in Chicago declined to dismiss the case.

Klenk said a ruling against Blockshopper on this issue could have a devastating impact on online media. "You and I can't even count how many Web sites this would affect. It would change the way people communicate," said Klenk, who expects to officially enter the case next week. "I think what Jones Day is doing is wrong. It's an abuse of the legal process, in my opinion, and interferes with free expression."

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Jones Day, a 2,300-lawyer firm, sued Blockshopper in August after the site wrote about recent home purchases in Chicago by associates Jacob Tiedt and Dan Malone, Jr. Those articles used the name "Jones Day" in the headlines and also linked to the associates' profiles on the firm's Web site.

Jones Day alleged that Blockshopper violated the law firm's trademark on the theory that linking to it gave readers the impression that the firm was affiliated with the site.

Blockshopper asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing that Web publishers do not need the permission of the people or companies they write about to mention their names or link to their Web sites. The site also said there was no reasonable chance that readers would confuse their news organization with the law firm they had written about.

But Darrah ruled last Thursday the case can go forward on the grounds that there are too many unresolved factual issues to warrant dismissal at this time.

Digital rights groups from around the country are seeking to get involved in the case. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen are among the groups that attempted to file a friend-of-the-court brief on Blockshopper's behalf, but Darrah turned those organizations away. He ruled last week that a friend-of-the-court brief "would not now be helpful."

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