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Ronald Riley v. John Dozier

Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Miscellaneous
Date Of Involvement: 10/02/2008

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After a lawyer working for John Dozier, who specializes in Internet-related litigation, sent demand letters to Ronald J. Riley over statements about a Dozier client on a web site operated by Riley, Riley established a “sucks” web site, www.cybertriallawyer-sucks.com, devoted to criticizing Dozier and his law firm. Dozier claimed that, by hyper-linking from the words “Dozier Internet Law” to a web site other than the Dozier firm’s own web site, Riley was violating Dozier’s trademark. Dozier also filed suit against Riley in state court; however, he did not serve that complaint on Riley, but only used it to threaten the hosts of Riley’s web site with litigation over Riley’s alleged infringement if they did not take Riley’s site down. Represented by Public Citizen, Riley has sued Dozier to seek an order forbidding Dozier from seeking to have Riley’s web site removed from the Internet based on spurious claims of trademark infringement.

The district court remanded Dozier’s lawsuit to state court, finding neither federal question jurisdiction nor a sufficient amount in controversy. The state judge denied a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, without prejudice to being renewed after Dozier has the opportunity to take discovery limited to the issue of personal jurisdiction. The district judge dismissed the declaratory judgment action on abstention grounds, and perhaps for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (the order on reconsideration is unclear) and that dismissal was appealed.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed dismissal of this lawsuit. However, Dozier died and the firm bearing his name has dissolved; hence his state-law trademark suit against Riley has come to an end.