Blogger fights big bank Goldman Sachs over threat

By , IDG News Service |  Legal, Blog, domain name

A blogger in the U.S. filed a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs on Monday to prevent the big investment bank from taking his domain names.

Blogger Mike Morgan hopes to protect anti-Goldman Web sites, including www.goldmansachs666.com and www.goldmansachs13.com, from trademark action threatened by the powerful bank.

He filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida after receiving a letter accusing him of violating Goldman's intellectual property rights by using its trademark, attached as Exhibit A in the lawsuit.

"David didn't beat Goliath by waiting till Goliath threw the first punch," Morgan wrote on his blog.

Opened early last month, Goldmansachs666 carries a host of anti-Goldman stories including "Is Goldman Sachs Manipulating the Stock Market? - It Sure Looks Like It"; "Did Goldman Sachs Scam the System with AIG?"; and "Did [CEO] Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs Lie to Congress?"

Most of the articles criticize Goldman Sachs in relation to the disaster that has hit the U.S. financial sector, which Goldman appears to be weathering better than most of its peers.

Its stock price has risen over 54 percent so far this year to close Monday at $130.15.

The company has faced criticism for the US$12.9 billion in cash and collateral it received from insurer American International Group (AIG), which only made the payments due to the estimated $173 billion it got from the U.S. government.

But Goldman has proposed paying back the $10 billion in direct bailout money the government handed it last year as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The champion of TARP was former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who previously ran Goldman Sachs as its chairman and CEO.

Morgan says in a disclaimer on his blog that he is betting in the stock market against Goldman Sachs, and holds a short selling position.

The Goldman versus Morgan fight looks similar to a problem Wal-Mart Stores faced over Web sites devoted to hating the retailer.

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia last month rejected Wal-Mart's request to take over the domain names "Walocaust.com" and "Walqueda.com" saying there was no way to mistake that the content on the sites, mostly anti-Wal-Mart opinions and products such as Walocaust T-shirts, were meant to criticize the company, not profit from the use of its name.

The legal wrangling did cause Walocaust.com to post a disclaimer at the top of the site saying it has no affiliation with Wal-Mart, a step that Morgan has already taken at Goldmansachs666.com.

A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the letter was sent to Morgan to protect the Goldman Sachs trademark.

"We don't have an issue with his comments, those are his views," she said.

She indicated that the prior lack of a disclaimer at the top of Morgan's Web sites to say that the site and owner had no affiliation with Goldman Sachs played a part in the letter, but declined to comment on whether the inclusion of a disclaimer, which is now there, would mean Goldman Sachs will not proceed with legal action.

Disclaimers are not often used by Web sites that criticize companies and products, nor by sites professing undying devotion, such as iPhonefreak.com and iPhonebuzz.com.

Goldman Sachs has won court cases against similarly-named Web sites in the past. The company took down Netherlands-based Goldmansex.com after filing suit three years ago.

But a quick search on Google reveals other uses of the name Goldman in domains that do not carry disclaimers nor appear to not have been challenged, including Goldmanfund.org and Goldmanprize.org, a philanthropy Web site and environmental prize, respectively.

By law, a company holding a patent or trademark that wishes to protect their right to that intellectual property has to go after every perceived misuse, or risks losing their rights. The Internet has been a battleground for intellectual property disputes for a long time.

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