BlockShopper On A Roll, Despite Lawsuit

BlockshopperThe lawsuit by Jones Day against real estate news site BlockShopper is not slowing the site down from expanding into new markets. Last weekend, BlockShopper launched in three new cities--Cleveland, Washington, and Phoenix. That's on top of the company's recent expansion into Seattle, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and additional neighborhoods in Illinois.

Overall, the two-year-old BlockShopper now reports news about real estate transactions in more than a dozen major areas, including its earliest markets of Chicago, Las Vegas, St. Louis and South Florida. The site also distributes stories through the South Florida Sun-Sentinel via a deal with the Tribune company.

Brian Timpone, company co-founder, said BlockShopper will soon launch in around a dozen additional markets including Miami, Minneapolis, and Westchester, N.Y. "We have a scalable business," he said. "Everyone wants to know who's buying and selling in their subdivision."

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The expansion effort comes as BlockShopper is still defending a lawsuit by the law firm Jones Day that challenges the startup's right to post links within its articles. The 2,300-lawyer firm sued the site for trademark infringement in August. BlockShopper published articles about recent home purchases in Chicago by Jones Day 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.

The law firm alleged that the site 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 federal district court judge John Darrah of Chicago denied that motion last month and scheduled the case for trial. The lawsuit drew the attention of digital rights groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen, who unsuccessfully attempted to file friend-of-the-court briefs on BlockShopper's behalf.

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