Beverly Stayart v. Yahoo!, Inc. et al

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

02/05/2009

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Wisconsin

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
In February 2009, Beverly Stayart filed a lawsuit against Yahoo! and two other internet services, Altavista and AdultFriendFinder, for unauthorized use of her name on the Internet. She claimed false designation of origin and false endorsement under the Lanham Act,... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Yahoo!, Inc.; Overture Services, Inc. d/b/a Alta Vista; Various, Inc. d/b/a Friendfinder.com

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization
Large Organization

Location of Party: 

  • Wisconsin

Location of Party: 

  • California
  • Delaware

Legal Counsel: 

Christian S. Genetski, David Tonisson - Sonnenshein Nath & Rosenthal LLP (for Yahoo!, Inc. and Overture Services, Inc.); John F. Hovel, Stephen E. Kravit, Melissa S. Blair - Kravit, Hovel & Krawczyk S.C. (for Various, Inc.)
Description

In February 2009, Beverly Stayart filed a lawsuit against Yahoo! and two other internet services, Altavista and AdultFriendFinder, for unauthorized use of her name on the Internet. She claimed false designation of origin and false endorsement under the Lanham Act, as well as violation of her statutory and common law rights to privacy.

The dispute originated when Ms. Stayart inputted her name as a search term at yahoo.com and altavista.com and was bombarded with spam sites purporting to sell Cialis (and other drugs to treat erectile dysfunction) or containing explicit banner ads for adultfriendfinder.com.  These sites contained her name either in their “spamdexing” text or their nonsensical URLs (e.g. jewellery-makin-doorway.orge.pl/bev-stayart.html).

Ms. Stayart tried to rectify the situation by notifying the search engines of the misleading results and requested that they be removed. When they failed to take any action, Ms. Stayard filed suit. 

In September 2009, the federal district court in Wisconsin dismissed the case.  The court held that Stayart failed to state a claim under the Lanham Act, and alternatively that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act barred her claim, although it is nominally an intellectual property claim outside Section 230's scope. After dismissing the federal claims, the court declined supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

Stayart filed a notice of appeal on September 24, 2009.

Update:

11/25/2009: Stayart filed her appellate brief, arguing that she did have standing under the Lanham Act  because of her work for charity; alternatively, she argued that she should be able to amend her complaint to pursue state law claims under federal diversity jurisdiction.

2/10/2010: Appellees filed their brief, arguing that Stayart had shown no intention of using her name for commercial activity and even if she did, Section 230 would bar her claims.

2/19/2010: Stayart filed her reply brief.

9/30/2010: The Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court, holding that Stayart does not have a commercial interest in her name, despite her charitable activities. Therefore, the Court held she that does not have standing under the Lanham Act. It also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied her leave to amend her complaint, because it found that allowing her to pursue her state law claims under diversity jurisdiction would be "futile."

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Third-Party Content
  • Section 230
Court Information & Documents
CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Stylianou Oct/09

Brittany is updating this one -- 07/2011, BGS