Knight-McConnell v. Cummins

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: 

07/07/2003

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

New York

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
On July 7, 2003, Kathy Knight-McConnell sued Mary Cummins for securities law violations, trademark infringement, defamation, and other claims in federal court in New York.  At the time of the litigation, Knight-McConnell ran a forum for investor discussions and published a newsletter... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Mary Cummins

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • New York

Location of Party: 

  • California

Legal Counsel: 

Mary Cummins (Pro Se)
Description

On July 7, 2003, Kathy Knight-McConnell sued Mary Cummins for securities law violations, trademark infringement, defamation, and other claims in federal court in New York.  At the time of the litigation, Knight-McConnell ran a forum for investor discussions and published a newsletter on various stocks.  According to a court decision in the case, Cummins, a stock trader from California, posted statements on website discussion groups and on her own website describing Knight-McConnell as a securities fraud "criminal," "insane," "paid to lie to investors," and "obese," among other things.  

In addition, Knight-McConnell alleged that Cummins intentionally maligned certain stocks that she promoted in order to drive their price down in violation of the securities laws.  Knight-McConnell also claimed that Cummins violated trademark law by linking to Knight-McConnell's website without permission, using Knight-McConnell's name in the post-domain path of URLs for seven of her web-pages, and posting liniks on Internet chat forums and discussion boards directing users to visit these pages."  

In a July 2004 opinion, Judge Buchwald dismissed the securities and trademark claims.  The court indicated that Knight-McConnell had no standing to bring a securities law claim because she did not allege that she purchased or sold the stocks in question in reliance on any statement by Cummins.  The court dismissed the trademark claim because linking to Knight-McConnell's site without permission was not likely to cause confusion as a matter of law:

Even if we assume that plaintiff's name is a valid and protectible mark, plaintiff has not alleged that the defendant engaged in any conduct that is likely to cause confusion as to the origin of the defendant's website.  The mere appearance on a website of a hyperlink to another site will not lead a web-user to conclude that the owner of the site he is visiting is associated with the owner of the linked site.  This is particularly true in this case because defendant's website advertises real estate and web design services, not investment services, and defendant is continuously dissassociating herself from plaintiff by criticizing her and accusing her of misconduct.

Judge Buchwald also determined that using Knight-McConnell's name in URL paths was not likely to cause confusion as a matter of law because a URL "merely shows how the website's data is organized within the host computer's files" and does not suggest affiliation, source, or sponsorship.

Looking at Knight-McConnell's many state law claims, Judge Buchwald determined that the complaint likely stated a cause of action for defamation, but that a defamation claim was not sufficient to confer personal jurisdiction on the court.  Buchwald indicated that Knight-McConnell's tortious interference with contract claim might be sufficient to establish jurisdiction under New York's long-arm statute, but that Knight-McConnell had failed to adequately plead this cause of action.  The court dismissed the complaint without prejudice and granted Knight-McConnell permission to amend her complaint.

Knight-McConnell amended her complaint, but, upon a renewed motion by Cummins, Judge Buchwald dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction in June 2005.  

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • Linking
  • Trademark
  • Personal Jurisdiction
  • User Comments or Submissions
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • New York

Source of Law: 

  • United States
  • New York

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Court Type: 

Federal

Case Number: 

1:03-cv-05035

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: LexisNexis

Documents not available on PACER.  Order granting defendant's motion to dismiss on Lexis as 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11577.

RPK