Charles Smith has done something that thousands and mom-and-pop stores have failed to do in decades: he beat Wal-Mart. The computer store owner from Convers, Georgia prevailed after being sued by Wal-Mart in a trademark case seeking to shutdown his internet sites entiteld Wal-Qaeda and Walocaust. The lawsuit by Wal-Mart was always weak and seemed designed to harass a critic and try to force him to abandon his small website under a barrage of lawyers and motions.
U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. in Atlanta issued an 87-page order rejecting Wal-Mart’ claims and held the obvious: Smith’s site qualified as protected noncommercial speech designed to criticize the company and not make a profit for its products. Moreover, Batten noted there was little chance of confusion between the products of Walocaust and Wal-Mart: “The fact that the real Wal-Mart name and marks are strong and recognizable makes it unlikely that a parody — particularly one that calls to mind the genocide of millions of people, another that evokes the name of a notorious terrorist organization … will be confused with Wal-Mart’s real products.” For a copy of the opinion, click here
Among the various items availabe on Smith’s site was a T-shirt bearing the motto, “I (heart) Wal-ocaust.” Such items led to a series of scary letters being sent from Wal-Mart counsel. What is particularly humorous is that Wal-Mart lawyers constituted Smith’s single largest group of customers: of the only 62 T-shirts sold, 15 were sold to Wal-Mart’s lawyers.
The case appears to be a classic case of the use of a lawsuit to try to bully and intimidate critics. Wal-Mart’s lack of legal judgment has been in open display recently with its cruel lawsuit against a brain-damaged former employee, click here.
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