Realty Company Sues Craigslist Over User-Generated Ads

    July 2, 2009
    Chris Crum

Craigslist is reportedly being sued for trademark infringement. A real estate company in Texas called First Call Properties is saying that it began posting ads on Craigslist in March, and that after that, a competitor called AAA Apartment Locating began posting ads using phrases like "first call," "call first," and "call us first."

Craigslist - Copyright infringement According to MediaPost, First Call named Craigslist, AAA and two individuals as defendants. The case has been sent to Federal Court.

Clearly, this is not the first time cases like this have made the news. It’s just the first time that Craigslist has been on the receiving end of such a suit. Google has certainly been there. MediaPost’s Wendy Davis points out that these cases don’t usually get too far in court, but one between Google and Geico was settled.
"This is misguided in any number of ways: first, as long as the ad itself is not confusing such that the reader (or a moron in a hurry reader) would think that the ad is from the original company rather than the competitor, there’s not likely to be a trademark violation," says Mike Masnick at TechDirt. "More importantly, even if there is a trademark violation, it should not be Google’s liability, since they’re simply the service provider. The liability (if there is any) would be on whoever created the ad."

There is another interesting aspect to the Craigslist case. According to MediaPost, First Call also says the AAA ads are libelous, and say things like "First Call Properties is a Scam," but Davis points to a section of the Communications Decency Act, which says sites can’t be sued for libel based on user-generated content.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case. Craigslist could settle, but based on past Google experience, it will probably just disappear.