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Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign Committee v Does 1-10, Exclusive

Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Right To Speak Anonymously

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Presidential candidate Ron Paul sued anonymous Internet speakers who created and posted to YouTube a nasty video that criticized rival candidate Jon Huntsman and concluded with the words “Vote Ron Paul.” Paul complained that he was being criticized for the actions of unknown persons claiming to be his supporters, and asserted that the use of his name infringed his trademark and defamed him. After Paul moved ex parte for early discovery to identify the Does, Public Citizen and other groups filed an amicus brief arguing that the court should apply the national consensus standard for discovery that could infringe the First Amendment right to speak anonymously, by requiring Paul to explain why he had valid legal claims and to produce evidence in support of those claims. The amicus brief also argued that trademark law does not allow lawsuits over purely noncommercial political speech, and urged the court to require future such ex parte motions to take account of the relevant case law. The trial court required the plaintiff to make a greater showing, and expressed skepticism that it had a valid trademark claim. Plaintiff then dismissed the lawsuit.