The Chicago Tribune reports today that United filed a lawsuit in Canada against Jeremy Cooperstock, the owner of Untied.com – a website devoted to collecting and airing complaints about United from passengers and employees.
According to the article:
Two suits filed in Canadian courts allege the complaint site violates the airline’s copyright and trademarks. It also alleges the site violates the privacy of senior airline employees by posting contact information for those employees.
A United spokeswoman claims they’re not trying to shut the website down, instead wanting to protect their intellectual property and minimize potential confusion in the minds of consumers thinking they’ve reached the official United website. For what it’s worth, there’s currently a pop-up warning users immediately that they haven’t reached United.com:
United said it approached Cooperstock “on multiple occasions” to ask that he modify his website so it is not “confusingly similar” to the United Airlines website. Cooperstock refused, which left United “no reasonable option” except to sue, the airline said. Cooperstock said he was under the impression the next step was an in-person meeting that the two sides were attempting to arrange.
I have to say the owner has done a pretty snazzy job setting the site up, even offering “to” and “from” destination fields to begin your complaint as if you were starting an airfare search. I visited a previous incarnation of the site years ago (the domain was registered to Cooperstock in 1997) and thought it was a great venue for those seeking to vent their frustrations. And I think the same today.
If Canadian laws and courts are anything like U.S. courts, it can be very difficult to prove intellectual property infringement to a jury. I worked in the music industry for a period of time and was involved in a case where my publishing company’s copyright was clearly infringed upon, but it never went to trial. Our lawyers were very clear to point out the pitfalls of attempting to see it through to the very end even though it was an open and shut case. In the end, we settled out of court.