We have all seen the reviews of products or services that disgruntled consumers post on review sites such as Yelp. Lately, however, some consumers have faced lawsuits for violating “gag orders,” or non-disparagement clauses, found in agreements between businesses and consumers. These clauses restrict consumers’ ability to publish any negative criticism about their experiences and are often placed in the fine print of form contracts. These agreements provide that, when the consumer posts a negative review, or even speaks negatively about the business’s products, services, or conduct, the business would have a cause of action against the consumer for breach … Continue Reading
A New York state trial court recently ruled in a long-running dispute between a cosmetic dentist and Yelp, the online consumer review site. Braverman v. Yelp, Inc., No. 158299-2013 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Feb. 24, 2014).
The dentist originally complained that Yelp had defamed him by permitting negative reviews about him to appear on Yelp’s site. That claim had previously been denied because the federal Communications Decency Act’s safe harbor protected Yelp as a publisher of third-party content.
In the current matter, the dentist complained to Yelp personnel that Yelp had been filtering out positive reviews about his … Continue Reading
On January 7, 2014, a majority of a Virginia appellate court held that a social media provider can be required to disclose the identity of its anonymous users. See Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., No. 0116-13-4 (Va. Ct. App. Jan. 7, 2014).
A Virginia carpet cleaning business had subpoenaed from Yelp the identity of certain Yelp users who posted negative reviews about the business. In particular, the business alleged that the reviews were false, defamatory, and did not match any customers in the business’s database. In response to the subpoena,
Yelp argued that the identities were protected … Continue Reading
Business owners using online consumer review platforms should be truthful and accurate, especially with respect to online reviews.
On August 20, 2013, social media search-and-review service Yelp! sued solo practitioner Julian McMillan for allegedly posting fake reviews about his own law firm. Yelp claimed that in 2010, employees from McMillan’s firm posted positive reviews of the law firm, and that some of these posts originated from his office building. Yelp further alleged that McMillan was one member of a group of local attorneys engaged in the practice of posting positive reviews of one another’s firms.
The Complaint, in part, reads:… Continue Reading
In any trademark infringement lawsuit, evidence of actual consumer confusion between two marks can play a key role in a court’s “likelihood of confusion” analysis. This evidence frequently takes the form of a consumer survey demonstrating that certain individuals were in the marketplace, saw the two marks, and believed that they were somehow related.
On February 11, 2013, however, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida allowed use of an anonymous Yelp! review to support a finding of likelihood of confusion and a preliminary injunction against the defendant.
In You Fit Inc. v. Pleasanton Fitness LLC… Continue Reading
Austin-based cleaning company Austin Gutter King Corporation, Inc. made headline news in Texas this week by filing a lawsuit against the poster of a negative review of its business on Google Places, the search engine’s business listing and review website.
The review originally came from a user named “Norma Lee,” but a court-ordered request from Google for the legal identity of the individual revealed that “Norma” was actually the husband of an employee of Austin Gutterman, a competitor of Austin Gutter King.
The review, in part, stated:
… Continue Reading
…they find it necessary to post fake customer reviews. While researching the source