Right to Use Fallwell.com Domain Name, Falwell v. Lamparello (amicus)
Chris Lamparello has a website at www.fallwell.com devoted to criticizing Jerry Falwell’s positions on gays and lesbians. At the top of the home page a disclaimer states: “This website is NOT affiliated with Jerry Falwell or his ministry. If you would like to visit Rev. Falwell’s website, you may click here.” The website is used solely for the expression of ideas; Lamparello does not sell any products or otherwise make money from the site. Falwell sued Lamparello for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and cybersquatting, and the Alexandria district court ruled in favor of Falwell on all claims. Lamparello appealed.
We filed an amicus brief on behalf of Lamparello arguing that (1) trademark law must be interpreted consistent with the First Amendment; and (2) in the non-commercial context, there can be no trademark violation when the content of the site, in combination with the domain name, is not misleading as to source. On May 26, 2005, the court heard oral arguments. On August 24, 2005, the Fourth Circuit held that Lamparello’s website did not violate the trademark law, because it was not likely to mislead anybody into thinking that the site represented Falwell’s own views.
Decision, August 24, 2005- Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (pdf)
Brief of Amicus Curiae American Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Inc. In Support of Christopher Lamparello- Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (pdf)