An interesting case from the Southern District of Florida recently held that a defendant tortiously interfered with the contracts that the plaintiff entered into with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc., when the plaintiff signed up for accounts at those sites. In Ordonez v. Icon Sky Holdings LLC, No. 10–60156–CIV, 2011 WL 3843890 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 30, 2011), the plaintiff brought a variety of claims, all of which surrounded infringement of her common law and filed-for trademarks (according to TESS / TTAB records, the plaintiff’s application was opposed by defendant following publication but on Oct. 24, 2011, the Board dismissed the opposition following an order to show cause that went unaddressed). From a social media standpoint, the interesting aspect of the case involves the plaintiff’s claim for tortious interference with contracts. The plaintiff used the name “Elizabeth Sky” on various social media sites. After the plaintiff filed for trademark protection of “Elizabeth Sky”, the defendant:
[C]ontacted these networks [Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.] and made trademark infringement complaints against Plaintiff. These complaints resulted in the cancellation or change of many of Plaintiff’s website accounts using the name Elizabeth Sky and thus interfered with her use of her Elizabeth Sky mark. . . . Such acquisition led to confusion among Plaintiff’s fans and entertainment industry professionals who followed Plaintiff’s Twitter profile.
Significantly, neither party had registered trademark for “Elizabeth Sky”. Based on the facts alleged in the complaint, the court applied the following legal analysis:
Notably, the case was decided on default and therefore the court assumed all of the allegations in the complaint to be true. But even with that procedural posture, the case is significant in that it expressly recognized the contractual relationship between the plaintiff and Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc., and held that the defendant interfered with those contracts by filing false trademark infringement complaints with those sites, thus depriving the plaintiff of her right to use Elizabeth Sky as her account name. This is a warning to those who file improper complaints as well as a potential opening for plaintiffs to bring additional causes of action when others interfere with their identities on social media sites.
I am interested to hear what lawyers out there think of this decision.