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Jones Day Settles With BlockShopper

The Goliath versus David lawsuit in which international law firm Jones Day sued the small, locally focused real estate Web site, appears to have settled. BlockShopper co-founder Brian Timpone told Alison Grant, a reporter at The Plain Dealer, that the settlement allows BlockShopper to continue linking to the law firm's Web site, provided it uses no embedded links, Grant writes at The Plain Dealer's Business Blog. "They had no shot at winning, but they were going to bleed us dry," Timpone said, adding that his company has spent more than $100,000 defending itself.

Under the settlement, provided to The Plain Dealer by BlockShopper attorney James Klenk, BlockShopper can publish links to Jones Day but they can't be "embedded links." Those are defined as hyperlinks that are placed on a word or name.

Instead, BlockShopper will have to place the Web address next to references to the firm. In other words, instead of writing Daniel P. Malone Jr. is an associate in the Chicago office of Jones Day," BlockShopper must write "Malone ( is an associate ..."

BlockShopper is permitted to use "deep links" to any Jones Day site. Those are links that directly access a specific page beyond the home page, such as attorneys' biographical pages.

We first wrote about BlockShopper in November 2007, describing it then as an unusual Web site. It reports on real estate transactions in exclusive neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities. What makes it unusual is that its reports go beyond the dollars-and-cents of the transaction to provide details about the buyers and sellers. Not surprisingly, given the neighborhoods, many of the buyers and sellers it profiles are lawyers.

Some of the lawyers it profiled were not too happy about it. In August 2008, Jones Day sued the Web site in federal court. It alleged that by linking to its site and using photos of lawyers from its site, BlockShopper was infringing its trademarks and engaging in unfair trade practices. A number of legal bloggers roundly condemned Jones Day for bringing the suit, with Public Citizen lawyer Paul Alan Levy leading the backlash with his post at the Consumer Law & Policy Blog in which he said that the lawsuit deserved a prize for "grossest abuse of trademark law to suppress speech the plaintiff doesn't like."

Much to the surprise of many, a federal judge in November denied BlockShopper's motion to dismiss the case against the Web site. His decision found that the complaint presented "legal and factual issues not appropriate for resolution at this motion to dismiss stage." Just a few days later, BlockShopper brought in new counsel, high-powered First Amendment attorney James A. Klenk, a partner in the Chicago office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal who represents many mainstream news organizations.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 12, 2009 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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