Back in February, a woman by the name of Beverly Stayart sued Yahoo. The reason? Organic search results linking her name to porn videos and erectile dysfunction drugs.
Stayart sued Yahoo and Overture for “Lanham Act false endorsement and false designation of origin and violation of Wisconsin’s publicity rights statute and common law privacy rights.”
Unfortunately for Beverly, all she accomplished was shoving the spam results down the page as her lawsuit became the center of attention.
Eric Goldman of Search Engine Land commented on the case:
“There are two obvious problems with the lawsuit against Yahoo and Overture. First, if there is or has been even one other Bev or Beverly Stayart in the world, the plaintiff has a real problem proving that the online references were to her and not the other person. And, with all due respect to Ms. Stayart’s lifetime of accomplishments, it would be ridiculous for her to argue that her name is so well-recognized that readers would assume that the references were to her instead of other folks with a common name.”
The court rejected the claim made by Stayart for three reasons:
(A) Stayart had not made sufficient effort to commercialize her name to qualify for protection under the Lanham Act;
(B) there was no evuidence of consumer confusion – in the words of the court, “No one who accessed these [spammy] links could reasonably conclude that Bev Stayart endorsed the products at issue.”
(C) “Yahoo! should be entitled to immunity because it acted as an interactive computer service, even though Stayart’s claims are nominal intellectual property claims….Immunizing Yahoo! from Stayart’s claims would not limit the laws pertaining to intellectual property because Stayart does not state a valid intellectual property claim.”
Stayart is free to refile – whether she will or has had enough publicity remains to be seen.