Saturday, June 11, 2011

Insurance firm sues a maligning Twitter prankster

Who will you sue when an anonymous entity impersonates you, and worse, destroys your reputation?
A life insurance company filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against an unknown Twitter critic for sending messages that seem to applaud for the demise of its policy holders.
Coventry First accused its impostor @coventryfirst of trademark infringement and unfair competition.
The Pennsylvania-based insurance company claimed that the messages could cause customer confusion. It also asked an order from the court for monetary damages and the destruction of the microblogging site, Reuters said.
Here are some of the tweets of @coventryfirst:
"2 increase shareholder value, would it b wrong to root for mass deaths in the world? preferably, 1st-world countries. LMK, kthxbai" (7 June)
"plane crashes r bad 4 the passengers and airline corp but those crashes also increase shareholder value in the death industry. coventryfirst" (7 June)
"horrible plane crashes (they make a lot of money), no earthquakes :-(" (1 June)
"tsunami in Japan was a godsend for those in the life insurance settlement industry...especially for the industry leader. CHA-CHING!" (27 May)
"Praying to Jesus for an earthquake in the North Eastern US!! Our death bonds could use a bump in revenue :(" (27 May)
The San Francisco-based microblogging site was subpoenaed by the insurance firm to bare the identity of the user but no words were received from Twitter.
This case is similar to last year's BP oil spill issue when an impostor @BPGlobalPR tweeted insensitive messages like "We've eliminated the huge turtle surplus in the gulf."
It does not appear that this battle would be easy for Coventry First because trademark laws are not very clear.
A law professor at the University of San Diego said, "We don't have a lot of bright-line rules in trademark law."
A Public Citizen lawyer stated, "When there's a site that's obviously meant to be a joke, there's not going to be confusion. Even if there's a few very dense people who don't get it, that's not enough."
Details of this report here.

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