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Court permits mall critic site to stay online

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    NMU         SIXTH CIRCUIT         Copyrights & Trademarks         Mar 21, 2002    

Court permits mall critic site to stay online

  • A federal appeals court on March 11 overturned a district court’s order for Dallas man to remove Taubmansucks.com from the Internet, allowing the critic’s site to stay online while a lawsuit is pending.

A Texas-based computer consultant embroiled in a trademark dispute with a mall developer can keep his Web site denouncing the developer, according to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (6th Cir.).

The appellate court overturned a ruling by a U.S. district court in Michigan ordering Dallas resident Henry Mishkoff to pull “Taubmansucks.com” from the Internet. The site will be permitted to stay up during the appeals process.

Mishkoff’s legal troubles with the Taubman Company began after he created a site celebrating the building of “an impressive new shopping mall” near his home. The Taubman Company is a developing firm in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., that owns 31 shopping centers in 13 states.

Taubman ordered Mishkoff to take down the site, claiming the site’s name was a trademark infringement of the company’s site — “TheShopsAtWillowBend.com.” When Mishkoff refused to remove his site — “ShopsAtWillowBend.com” — on the grounds that it was a non-profit entity, the company sued.

Mishkoff created “Taubmansucks.com” as an objection to the company’s lawsuit.

The company responded by including the new site in the suit. The move prompted attorney Paul Levy of the watchdog group Public Citizen to represent Mishkoff, who had been acting as his own attorney.

“Not only is Taubman suing me, they’ve taken what started as a straightforward trademark dispute and have managed to escalate it into a free speech issue,” wrote Mishkoff on his Web site.

While the appellate court struck down the lower court’s injunction against the protest site, it upheld the injunction against the original “fan site.”

“The ruling . . . acknowledges that issues raised by Mr. Mishkoff’s use of an additional complaint website are new issues for the court . . . and merit expedited attention,” the Taubman company wrote in a statement.

Levy said he’s unsure how the court will rule on the “fan site” issue but acknowledges that “it’s easier to see the First Amendment argument in the criticism site.”

(The Taubman Company vs. Mishkoff) KC


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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