Monday, October 12, 2009

Can I Stop Web Posting By Getting a Trademark on My Name?

Dear Rich: Is it possible to get a trademark for one's name in order to force others to remove it from website content? I filed a lawsuit three years ago and Michigan's Court of Appeals was gracious enough to effectively "seal" the case and remove it from their online archives. However, there is ONE clown who has posted a summary of the case and is refusing to pull it offline. I have a uniquely "googleable" name and believe I have recently lost a job because someone read this summary of my case online.  Sorry, but your 'trademark' idea won't fly. When a person's name functions as a trademark, it's in relation to a product or service -- for example, Newman's Own salad dressing, Smith & Wesson firearms, or Dell computers. Putting aside the difficulties involved in acquiring trademark protection for a person's name, you can only use that name trademark to stop others from competing against you unfairly, not to prevent the listing of your name on court documents, in newspapers or in any type of editorial use.
Rules About Sealed Documents.  Unfortunately, the rules are murky when it comes to Internet posting of sealed civil court documents. Since the Dear Rich Staff is not clear whether continued publication of those sealed civil records violates your state's law or your right to privacy, you may want to consult an attorney (if you can afford it) to determine whether you have any claims that could force the errant website to take down the case summary.
And Speaking of  Names: We're happy to report that 'Dear Rich' (Serial Number 77733116) has been published for opposition -- the final stage of acquiring registration at the USPTO.
And Speaking of Trademarks.  We just learned about, an interesting new trademark site that accesses USPTO records and more. (And when is Google going to do for trademarks, what it's done for patents?)