Brief updates on the Carreon v. Inman circus, aside from vexatious litigant Jonathan Lee Riches entering the fray:
First, the judge appears to be ready to dismiss Carreon’s TRO application as moot (meaning pointless), pending proof from Inman’s lawyers that the two outstanding checks have been handed over to the charities. It’s an easy way to resolve the motion without needlessly getting into the complicated First Amendment and California charity law stuff. Popehat has more analysis and the order here.
Second, the anonymous author of satirical website Charles-Carreon.com has filed a lawsuit against Carreon, seeking declaratory relief that his use of the domain name is not trademark infringement. The Complaint includes correspondence with Carreon in which Carreon makes some astounding threats. (Complaint courtesy, again, of Ken at Popehat, who has more details about the outrageous claims made by Carreon). The anonymous critic comes out of character with a defiant post here.
To me, one of the most astounding is his continued focus on finding some way — any way — to find more frivolous legal claims to make against Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal.
The biggest obstacle to Carreon maintaining a trademark infringement claim against the site (well, besides that pesky First Amendment) is that you have to prove that there’s a bad faith intent to profit from the domain. Carreon thinks he’s found that here because Inman hasn’t asked the website to stop linking to The Oatmeal, and might somehow profit from it. That’s right: Carreon asserts that Inman is liable for trademark infringement because the satirical website — a website Inman has no control over — links to The Oatmeal and Inman hasn’t said anything about it.
Which still doesn’t mean the holder of the website has an intent to profit off of the domain — he gets nothing by linking to The Oatmeal. But, once again, Carreon’s focus remains on the guy who insulted his client’s fictional mother.
Carreon’s got his work cut out for him. He faces formidable First Amendment attorney Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen. Levy weighs in on the lawsuit here, highlighting the problems presented by domain registration companies who capitulate in the face of frivolous legal threats and reveal their anonymous customers’ private information. Of course, it’s hard to blame registers for being caught in a system that gives little advantage to protecting their users, but Levy notes that GoDaddy.com often stands up for its customers against trademark infringement claims. Levy also notes his debate with First Amendment luminary Marc Randazza over the issue — a debate which — it’s quite humbling to say — occurred in the comments section of my own site.
It also occurs to me that this is a stunning fall from grace for Carreon, who was respected among First Amendment circles before this circus came to town. Carreon had connections to the EFF (having received pro hac vice admission upon the roundabout recommendation of an EFF attorney), which has now stepped in on Matthew Inman’s behalf. Public Citizen, an organization close to Ralph Nader, is just more fuel for the fire –the Carreons are admirers of Nader and run a website bearing Nader’s name. Charles Carreon, feeling the burn, demanded that Levy inform Nader about the circumstances of the case, perhaps thinking Nader would intervene on his behalf.
Anyway, between Randazza serving me humble pie, Levy and Randazza debating in my comments, and humbling affirmation from Ken after scooping Popehat (sorry!), all I need now is for Eugene Volokh to call me an idiot and I can die a happy man. Yeah, I’m bragging — sue me*.
[*Offer does not extend to Mr. Carreon or Jonathan Lee Riches.]