Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Self-Described Patent Expert Ronald Riley Sued for Trademark Infringement

This is one of those stories that intertwines the worlds of patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

Those in the patent world, especially those who follow the subject of patent law reform, know the name Ronald Riley. Riley, who describes himself as an inventor, entrepreneur, patent consultant, and independent inventor advocate, is well known for his comments about the patent system, patent reform, and lawyers representing inventors and large companies (click here for a blog that has chronicled some of Riley's more controversial comments among blogs and other online forums).

Well, Riley has been sued by Dozier Internet Law, PC – the law firm which is most widely known among the blogosphere as the law firm that claimed that its cease and desist letter was copyrighted and thus could not be posted online by the recipient (Techdirt article here).

The complaint (posted here), which was filed on September 4, 2008, in Virginia State Court (the Circuit Court for Henrico County, Virginia), is mostly focused on shining a light (in very unflattering terms) on Riley’s promotional activities that have made him the personality he is. See articles on the lawsuit at and Techdirt. Dozier’s own blog also writes about the filing.

The complaint describes Riley’s “marketing” campaign approach as follows:

These campaigns are executed under a three tactic approach: attacking competitors through the publication of defamatory and outrageous accusations on blogs, forums and social networking sites; launching "sucks" sites against competitors programmed so his websites appear when the company is searched, and often containing trademark infringing uses of the competitor's name; and launching "sucks" websites attacking non-inventor or entrepreneur industry businesses for the purpose of generating attention, which leads to a higher ranking on the search engines, more traffic to Riley's sites, and more "marks" for him to solicit.
It should be noted that among Riley’s “suck” sites is (Dozier’s official website is It should be noted that some of Riley’s criticism of Dozier relates to the aforementioned copyright claims by Dozier with respect to its cease and desist letters (in which case I think most people would side with Riley).

The complaint summarizes Riley’s activities as follows:

In summary, Riley concocts credentials in a highly sophisticated way, hijacks and steals the identity and goodwill of organizations, uses inventor and entrepreneur forums, blogs and other online social networking sites for the commercial purpose of locating prospective clients or customers and driving traffic to his sites, and fends off his detractors, and those attempting to spread the truth about Riley to novice inventors and entrepreneurs, by attacking relentlessly the right to speak anonymously, and the right to speak in general. Riley attacks by asserting a broad range of outrageous and false misconduct impugning the reputation of the speakers when identifiable, threatening to track down anonymous posters through lawsuits, and threatening to obtain log files and IP addresses of those exercising their free speech rights to anonymity.
However, in the end, the only causes of action set forth in this complaint are for trademark infringement (state trademark infringement and common law trademark infringement). Specifically, Dozier has a state trademark registration for its name “Dozier Internet Law, P.C.” (having registered the name with the State Corporation Commission's, Division of Securities and Retail Franchising, of the Commonwealth of Virginia).

The crux of Dozier’s trademark infringement cause of action is:

The Riley Businesses have launched a page on the web that contains twelve (12) different instances in which the trademark "Dozier Internet Law" is exclusively used as anchor text in a hypertext link. An anchor link is supposed to describe the destination a visitor will reach when clicking on the link, and functions much like a road map with a shortcut. These anchor links, however, do not take a visitor to the Dozier Internet Law website. Rather, the links send the party clicking on them to the main website used by the Riley Businesses that offer services which directly compete with Dozier Internet Law.
Dozier argues that Riley’s conduct in having such anchored text links leading to a website of Dozier’s competitors has caused initial interest confusion and is likely to cause consumer confusion, mistake and deception as to the source or origin of the goods or services of Dozier Internet Law since the link to Dozier Internet Law leads to a website other than Dozier’s website. In addition, by Riley having such links in the text of his web pages, Riley’s own websites appear whenever a client does an internet search for Dozier Internet Law on a major search engine.

Given the fact that most of the complaint sets forth allegations that have little to nothing to do with the alleged trademark infringement, this lawsuit appears to be just another part of a larger ongoing “personal” dispute between Dozier and Riley. Of course, anybody who knows Riley knows that he is not the type who will back down from what is for the most part a personal attack on his character as well as an attack on his First Amendment rights to free speech – under the guise of a trademark infringement lawsuit.

No comments: