Falwell v. Lamparello

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: 

10/01/2003

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Virginia

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
In 1999, Christopher Lamparello registered the domain name www.fallwell.com and used the website to criticize Rev. Jerry Falwell's views concerning gays and lesbians. In September 2003, Falwell initiated an arbitration action against Lamparello pursuant to the Uniform Domain... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Christopher Lamparello

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Virginia

Location of Party: 

  • New York

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy, Allison M. Zieve
Description

In 1999, Christopher Lamparello registered the domain name www.fallwell.com and used the website to criticize Rev. Jerry Falwell's views concerning gays and lesbians. In September 2003, Falwell initiated an arbitration action against Lamparello pursuant to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, claiming trademark infringement, cybersquatting and other torts, and sought to have the domain name transferred to him.

The National Arbitration Forum ruled that Lamparello's use of the domain name was confusing and had been registered in bad faith, and it ordered that the domain name be transferred from Lamaparello to Falwell. Lamparello commenced a lawsuit against Falwell in federal district court, seeking relief from the arbitration decision and a declaration of non-infringement. Falwell counter-claimed, alleging federal trademark infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition under federal and Virginia law, and cybersquatting.

The district court granted summary judgment to Falwell, enjoined Lamparello from using the mark, and required him to transfer the domain name to Falwell. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and entered judgment for Lamparello. Avoiding the larger question of whether trademark law applies to websites like Lamparello's that do not use the disputed mark to sell a good or service, the court ruled that Lamparello's use of the domain name, in the overall context of his gripe site, did not create a likelihood of confusion between his site and Falwell's official site. The court rejected the doctrine of "initial interest confusion" for establishing trademark infringement, at least as applied to non-commercial sites critical of the trademark holder. The court also found that Lamparello did not have the "bad faith intent to profit" required for a cybersquatting claim, primarily because he used the domain name and website to engage in criticism and did not have a profit motive.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Trademark
  • Gripe Sites
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Virginia

Source of Law: 

  • United States

Court Name: 

National Arbitration Forum; United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Court Type: 

Administrative
Federal

Case Number: 

FA0310000198936 (National Arbitration Forum); 03-1503-A (EDVA)

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

CMLP Notes: 

I'm not sure what to put for the disposition. There was a verdict for the plaintiff. However, the plaintiff in the case is Lamparello, although Falwell initiated the threat. So, I thought it might be confusing to put that there was a verdict for the plaintif since we call the case "Falwell v. Lamparello."