Jones Day is the latest big law firm that seems to believe that its size and money give it a free pass with respect to ethcis. See Trademark Abuse by Jones Day to Suppress Free Speech.
BlockShopper is a website that reports on home purchases in various markets. When BlockShopper reported that two Jones Day associates bought a pair of expensive condos, Jones Day threw a hissy fit. Jones Day claims that using their name in that article, along with a link to their website, is trademark infringement.
Jones Day seems to have taken leave of its ethics by filing this complaint. (link courtesy of CMLP) While they may not appreciate the fact that an independent real estate website is reporting on where their associates bought property, there is this pesky thing called the First Amendment. Those 45 words allow websites to publish truthful matters from the public record — even if a big law firm doesn’t like it.
Interestingly enough, it does seem that BlockShopper lifted photographs of the Jones Day associates from the firm’s website. It would seem that the ethically challenged giant would have a better copyright case than a trademark case. Of course, there may be fair use arguments at BlockShopper’s disposal — but at least then the case wouldn’t be something that I will use in my classes as a negative example in an ethics segment.
Jones Day told BlockShopper it would drop the case if BlockShopper paid it $10,000 and agreed to never write about its lawyers’ real estate transactions again, according to the National Law Journal (subscription required). BlockShopper declined the offer. (source)
Good for them. Martin B. Carroll, Adam A Hachikian, and Daniel S. Hefter of Fox, Hefter, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP are defending BlockShopper. I’m just guessing that BlockShopper is getting pro bono or low-bono service, since it can’t possibly be making enough money to afford this kind of representation.
The complaint is signed by Jones Day lawyers, Paul W. Schroeder, Irene S. Fiorentinos, Meredith M. Wilkes, Robert P. Ducatman, and James W. Walworth Jr. All of them should be forced to attend remedial ethics counseling for affixing their names to this frivolous action.
See Dozier Does it Again for a similar issue. When the big firms behave like this, is it any surprise that small firms follow suit?
UPDATE: Public Citizen has entered the fray with an amicus brief.