There’s No Twittering in Baseball: La Russa v. Twitter, Inc.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has sued Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service in San Francisco Superior Court alleging: Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, Trademark Dilution, Cybersquatting, Misappropriation of Name, and Misappropriation of Likeness. In the Complaint, Mr. La Russa states the defendant owns the domain name twitter.com, and pursuant thereto, twitter.com/TonyLaRussa. Mr. La Russa contends an unknown user, pretending to be La Russa, began posting updates as Mr. La Russa. One line of the “profile” suggested it was all a fake: “Bio Parodies are fun for everyone.”

tonylarussa2twitter

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, La Russa’s attorney tried to contact Twitter before filing the lawsuit, but got no response. Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Twitter removed the fake La Russa page and its postings. It is being reported that the case has already settled. “La Russa said Friday [6/5/09] that Twitter has agreed to pay legal fees and make a donation to his Animal Rescue Foundation. The organization is likely to take control of the name www.twitter.com/TonyLaRussa. However, the Wall Street Journal is reporting the opposite.

The truth is out there.

Trademark Note: Using a trademark and then simply claiming “parody” is not a “get outta jail free card.” In trademark cases, when a parody defense is raised, the defendant justifies his use on the grounds of humorous social comment. Funny or not, a defendant’s use may still be enjoined if it is likely to cause confusion with plaintiff’s trademark. Courts must balance the public interest in poking fun at trademarks and the institutions they represent, with the trademark owner’s investment and good will. Courts must also protect consumers from likely confusion.

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