As I am sure you have already heard Tony La Russa, the coach of the St Louis Cardinals, has sued Twitter over an unauthorized account using his name. The question I want to know is why? After reading the complaint I am none the wiser. In fact, I am more convinced that this lawsuit should not have been filed and Mr. La Russa ought to fire whomever advised him to file this suit.
For starters, lets assume that the account is likely to cause confusion and did cause mental anguish and distress. The screenshot of the damaging twitter account shows that it had 4 followers. Compare that to the thousands of tweets now detailing the lawsuit. By filing the lawsuit La Russa and his attorneys have brought considerably more attention to posts allegedly damaging La Russa’s reputation. One would assume this was not the intent of the lawsuit (although it was a easily foreseeable result.)
Furthermore, reports indicate that Twitter has been responsive to celebrity requests to remove fake pages. Thus a simple request to Twitter is likely to have resulted in the removal of the page with much less fanfare. While one report indicates that La Russa did ask for the page to be taken down, the complaint makes no such allegation. In my opinion given the detailed nature of the complaint it is unlikely that such a key fact would have been omitted.
Even worse, the screenshot attached to the complaint also reveals that the page was clearly labeled a parody. This weighs heavily against a finding of likelihood of confusion, raises serious fair use issues, and in my opinion raises issues of fraud in the complaint. The complaint alleges that the statements “are impliedly written by Plaintiff himself.” I don’t understand how they could be impliedly written by La Russa when the page explicitly indicates they aren’t.
Additionally, the complaint also argues agency theory with respect to the creator of the page and Twitter. While I only have one semester of Business Organization under my belt, I am hard pressed to believe that an agency theory between the account creator and twitter will hold up in court.
Finally, I am confused why the complaint was filed in San Francisco Superior Court rather than federal court given it was filed on the basis of federal trademark statutes. Perhaps it was to try an avoid Judge Kozinski . (See Mattel Inc. v. Universal Music International for Kozinski’s take on trademark’s and parodies.)
In my opinion, this is another example of a poorly thought out, poorly drafted complaint which will likely cause more damage to the attorney’s client than the alleged cause of action.