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Crown Pontiac v. Ballock

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Citation Edit

Crown Pontiac, Inc. v. Ballock, 287 F.Supp.2d 1256 (N.D. Ala. 2003) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Defendant purchased a car from plaintiff with a dealer-installed sunroof not realizing that the aftermarket sunroof partially voided the factory warranty on the car. Defendant tried to rescind the sale, but plaintiff refused, and the dispute went to arbitration as required by the purchase contract. Defendant, unhappy with how the arbitration was proceeding, registered the domain name "crownpontiacnissan.com" and used it to criticize plaintiff and to educate the public about the pitfalls of arbitration for consumers. Defendant prominently placed a disclaimer in bold print at the top of his website.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The court preliminarily enjoined defendant, who appeared pro se, from "acquiring, utilizing or operating any website using the trade name Crown Pontiac-Nissan or any confusing variation thereof, in text or domain name(s) intended to, or having the effect of, diverting traffic from Crown Pontiac, Inc.'s websites, including without limitation any site found at the URL "www.crownpontiacnissan.com." But defendant was not precluded from publicizing his disputes with, and criticism of, Crown, "so long as he does not utilize [Crown]'s mark or any derivation of [Crown]'s domain name to divert Internet traffic from [Crown]'s website."

A few months later, after the Public Citizen Litigation Group became involved on defendant's behalf, the court dissolved the preliminary injunction because of the noncommercial nature of defendant's site and a lack of showing of any commercial motivation by defendant. Defendant later prevailed in the arbitration and the parties settled this litigation. The court awarded defendant $4,000 in "mental anguish damages," $2,000 for "the deprivation of his First Amendment rights flowing from the wrongful issuance of the preliminary injunction," and nearly $800 in out-of-pocket expenses to defend against the preliminary injunction.

Source Edit

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