Free speech, but nothing to say?

The IPKat has today received a copy of the ruling last Friday of Sonia Proudman QC, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the Chancery Division, England and Wales, in Pankajkumar Patel v Allos Therapeutics Inc -- a dispute in which human rights and trade mark collide quite dramatically.

Allos, an international biopharmaceutical company, owned US trade marks for the words 'Allos' and 'Allostherapeutics, Inc'. Unsurprisingly Allos operated the domain name. Patel, a horticulturalist, did not trade in the pharma sector himself. However, he developed the habit of registering the names of companies -- including Allos -- as domain names. Unlike some grubby souls who only do it for the nuisance value and in the hope that they will be bought off for a juicy sum of money, Patel had a higher purpose. This was to wage ideological warfare against what he perceived to be the evils of the pharmaceutical industry, which he sought to expose. Patel's sites were acquired in the hope of directing internet users searching for the (evil) company in question to a website in the name of the company, in the form "trademark.tld", on which the company's logo was displayed. After he had a full view of the home page, the internet user would then be treated to a disclaimer or would come to realise that the site was unconnected to the target company.

In the case of Allos, the disputing parties had already agreed to an ICANN Uniform Dispute Resolution Procedure (UDRP), in which the panel upheld Allos's complaint and ordered that the and domain names be transferred to Allos. Now Patel went to court and sought to have the UDRP process set aside on an unspecified ground under the Human Rights Act 1998. According to Patel, the panel's decision infringed his right to freedom of expression under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Patel also alleged defamation, malicious falsehood and wrongful threats to sue for trade mark infringement. Allos, unimpressed by these lofty claims, applied for (i) the claims to be struck out on the ground that it disclosed no reasonable grounds of action or (ii) summary judgment on the basis that Patel had no real prospect of succeeding and there was no other compelling reason why the matter should go to trial.

Sonia Proudman QC granted Allos's application. She observed that freedom of expression was not an unqualified right: it had to be balanced against the rights of others, such as the rights of a minority not to suffer abuse or -- in this case -- the rights of a trade mark owner freely to enjoy its own rights and property. There was no way Patel could succeed: he used a domain name without offering any indication that it was a protest site; the site featured Allos's own trade mark. It was hardly free speech to use a domain name and trade marks that internet users would (and were intended to) associate with Allos in order to trick them. Nor wa there any active criticism, or link to any.

The IPKat says, oh dear, here's another litigant appearing in person who really had no chance at all. It's not as if he had taken the trouble to exercise his freedom of expression by saying something about Allos. This is not so much a plea for freedom of expression as a plea to be able to retain the media of expression until such time as something expressable occurs to him. Merpel says, the judge struck the right note when she said:
"He cannot accept that he is the aggressor, not the victim. He is not debarred from making legitimate criticisms of pharmaceutical companies nor from setting up proper criticism websites from which he and others might do so. Instead, he had chosen to usurp names and logos contrary to the UDRP policy".
Col d'Allos here
Val d'Allos here
Free speech, but nothing to say? Free speech, but nothing to say? Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, June 16, 2008 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Your article is not entirely accurate.

    When the website was active, anyone searching Google etc would see that it was a criticism website before they even clicked on the link. It was made plain to the user. In any event, in law, there is no such thing as misdirecting a consumer if there is no sale. See:

    Reckitt & Colman Products Ltd v Borden Inc (Jif Lemon case) [1990] RPC 341
    Perry v. Truefitt (1842)

    "The basic test for claiming passing off is for the claimant to satisfy the “classic trinity” and it is also of utmost important to remember that mere confusion which does not lead to a sale is not sufficient to satisfy one of the requirements."

    My case against Allos is only a small part of my battle with the pharmaceutical industry and their lawyers. For more info:

    The website was active and did have content on it, including an email address to receive information.

    I have a complaint already filed in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for the simple reason that I have not received justice in the UK High Court. I am currently appealing the decision of QC Proudman and I will update everyone on this website when a hearing date is set so if you want to attend the hearing, then you will all have the opportunity to do so.

    My battle is not just to protect my rights but the rights of everyone.

    There is no law that prevents a person from making use of a trademark in a non-commercial manner. Therefore in the event that a website at a trademark.tld domain name is not active, then the trademark holder still has no right whatsover to prevent a use which is non-commercial.

    In my case, I already told the defendant why my website was in it's infancy and that is because of the time I have had to spend in litigation to defend my rights.
    QC Proudman is also very well aware of this.

    Some of the websites that I have had a chance to develop are:

    Because of the litigation, I can not change the servers on my domain name but I have now registered another domain name and I will upload the full court case onto that website as soon as possible, including Particulars of Claim, Skeleton Arguments, Witness Statements etc, so that the public may judge for themselves the institutional descrimination that I am facing and fighting against.


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