Sorry Ron Paul, You Don't Get To Abuse Trademark Law To Unveil Anonymous Internet Users

by Mike Masnick
Techdirt
Mar. 12, 2012

This was shockingly stupid, I really don't understand how they could file such an idiotic lawsuit. - ChrisBack in January, we wrote about the bizarre decision by Ron Paul to file a lawsuit to unmask some anonymous internet users, who had created a controversial anti-John Huntsman video. At the end of the video, the anonymous videomakers had endorsed Paul, but some conspiracy-minded folks insisted that they were really working for Huntsman and staging an elaborate ruse to put up a video that looked bad about Huntsman to have that backfire on Ron Paul. For a variety of reasons that's either improbable or just downright stupid. But even if we assume the worst case scenario, Ron Paul's lawsuit not only made absolutely no legal sense, but it also seemed to go against nearly everything he believed in concerning internet freedom and the overreaching power of the government.

Either way, a judge has rejected Paul's attempt to unmask the videomakers on the narrow grounds that he failed to state a legitimate claim, since the video was not commercial in nature (necessary for a trademark violation). The judge did not go so far as to get into the First Amendment issues, but made clear that if Paul comes back with an amended suit with an actual claim, then the First Amendment considerations will be covered. Kudos to Paul Levy at Public Citizen for filing a pair of amicus briefs in the case to make sure the judge was aware of what was happening -- and hitting back at Paul's camp for its initial filing that completely ignored the relevant law and legal standards for unmasking anonymous internet users.

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