Big media threatens Kiwi blogger

One of my  journalism students has written a good little story on our Te Waha Nui online site about APN threatening to sue blogger James Coe for an alleged trademark infringement.

APN threatens legal action over blogger’s use of masthead

By Yvette McCullough ⋅ May 8, 2009 ⋅ Post a comment

An Auckland blogger has been threatened with legal action by APN because of alledged trademark infringement.

James Coe’s blog, editingtheherald.blogspot.com, is a daily critique of The New Zealand Herald.

Last week Coe received an email from APN lawyer James Elliott claiming his use of the Herald’s masthead was trademark infringement and must be removed immediately.

He was advised he had one day to remove it from the website before APN New Zealand Ltd commenced legal proceedings.

Coe says he got his masthead from a photo of the Herald’s front page, not from an APN website.

“I really didn’t think it would be an issue. I’m not really 100 per cent sure what their concern was. I really don’t think people would confuse my product with theirs.”

Editing The Herald is a not-for-profit site and Coe says he does not actively advertise the blog.

He acknowledges his actions may have been infringing trademark rules but says he is concerned and disappointed with the manner in which it was brought up.

“Right at the top of the email it said in capitals, ‘Not for publication’. This disclaimer doesn’t actually have any legal standing whatsoever. It is a real worry that a lawyer can put that on an email. I think it is plain bullying.

“I think it was quite immature and if they’d just said or asked nicely and given me the reasons why I couldn’t use the masthead, I like to think I would have complied without a fuss.”

APN lawyer James Elliott declined to comment on the issue.

Coe has replaced the masthead from his website with a banner claiming he has been censored.

“It was easier just to do it. Although I think this has all kind of exploded in their faces and it would have been a PR disaster for the Herald if I’d fought it, it would have been a bit of an empty victory getting sued over it.”

He said it was a concern that the approach APN took was to “shoot first and ask later”.

“I find it odd that they would pursue this now. If it is out of spite because of what I write about that’s quite petty. If it’s just over-protection of a trademark then that’s petty too. Either way it was just petty.”

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