KB Home v. Smith

Internet Free Speech — Use of Brand Names
District Court
Case Description: 

Andrew Smith, the owner of a newly-built home in a condominium development near Tampa, Florida, alarmed at the extensive repairs needed throughout the complex, created a web site to enable his fellow residents to discuss their mutual problems and search for solutions; he chose the domain name “thekbhome.com” because the home builder, KB Home, was the focus of their concerns. After the homeowners concluded that the problems were so serious that KB Home should be pressed to buy back the houses, and Smith advocated that solution on the site, KB Home sued Smith in federal court in Tampa on the theory that the use of its trademark in a domain name for a site being used to advocate actions that would benefit him personally constituted “cybersquatting”; it sued other homeowners for allegedly “conspiring” to cybersquat. Public Citizen represents Smith in arguing that the First Amendment and the trademark laws alike protect his right to use KB Home’s trademark in the domain name to accurately characterize his site as being about KB Home. Because our client’s insurance company agreed to finance his legal defense, we withdrew from the case in favor of local counsel hired by the insurance company.