U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Yes Men

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: 

10/26/2009

Status: 

Pending

Location: 

District of Columbia

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
In October 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued a group of political activists including members of the Yes Men and the Action Factory for trademark infringement and other claims in federal district court in the District of... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jacques Servin aka Andy Bichlbaum; Igor Vamos aka Mike Bonanno; Support and Commitment, Inc.; David Sievers; Morgan Goodwin; John and Jane Does 1-20

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Location of Party: 

  • District of Columbia

Location of Party: 

  • New York
  • Maryland

Legal Counsel: 

Robert Corn-Revere, Lisa B. Zycherman, Bruce E. H. Johnson, Ambika Doran, Thomas R. Burke - Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP; Matthew Zimmerman, Corynne McSherry - EFF
Description

In October 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued a group of political activists including members of the Yes Men and the Action Factory for trademark infringement and other claims in federal district court in the District of Columbia.

The dispute arose when the Yes Men issued a fake press release and held a fake press conference at the National Press Club in which the Chamber of Commerce ostensibly reversed its position and promised to stop lobbying against strong climate change legislation. After the fake press conference began, a real representative of the Chamber of Commerce interrupted and revealed that the Chamber had not in fact reversed its position.  As part of the hoax, the Yes Men published a parody website designed to look like the Chamber's, which featured a fake statement by CEO Thomas J. Donahue about the supposed change of policy.

The Chamber first sent a DMCA takedown notice to the Yes Men's upstream service provider demanding that the parody website be taken down.  According to EFF, this resulted in the temporary shutdown of not only the spoof site but of hundreds of other sites hosted by May First/People Link.  The Yes Men retained EFF as counsel, and EFF responded to the Chamber on their behalf, disputing the validity of the copyright claim, requesting that the Chamber withdraw its letter, and threatening a DMCA action for knowing, material misrepresentation of a copyright claim under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f).  Despite the takedown notice, the parody site remained available for a time, but now no longer appears to be online.

The Chamber then filed its lawsuit in federal court, abandoning the copyright claim but asserting trademark infringement, trademark dilution, cybersquatting, false advertising and other claims.  On January 5, 2010, the Yes Men and Action Factory defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and a motion to stay discovery. The motion to dismiss argues that the Chamber's lawsuit is designed to punish core political speech, rather than to vindicate any actual trademark harm, and should therefore be dismissed.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Video
  • Text
  • Graphic

Publication Medium: 

Verbal
Website

Subject Area: 

  • Copyright
  • Twitter
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • District of Columbia

Source of Law: 

  • United States
  • District of Columbia

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Court Type: 

Federal

Case Number: 

1:09-cv-02014-RWR

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High