BlockShopper, a site which uses public records, Facebook and Linkedin to track down who’s buying and selling what, has been sued by a law firm for linking to its website.
The law firm didn’t say why it sued, but maybe they thought the posts compromised their lawyers’ privacy. Housing records are public documents, but the Web turns public into accessible, and the firm probably wasn’t thrilled about having its attorneys’ home purchases blabbed all over the web. Someone at BlockShopper must sit around all day and cross-check public records with names on social networking websites, because there seem to be a lot of photos of homebuyers and sellers sitting around the pool or posing in front of the Eiffel Tower.
The law firm demanded that BlockShopper remove the items and links. When BlockShopper refused, the firm sued the 15-staff startup for trademark infringement. Jones Day’s legal theory was that BlockShopper’s link would trick readers into thinking that Jones Day was affiliated with the real estate site. Which is ridiculous, of course. They were probably just trying to drive them out of business.
Faced with the prospect of big legal bills, BlockShopper decided to settle. On Tuesday, the real estate site said it agreed to change how it links to Jones Day. This could have had repercussions for all of us if it had acutally gone to trial, and it sounded like the law firm would have won.