This was reported on Ars Technica, and the writer is pointing out the misuse of intellectual property laws in attempting to shut down Lowes-sucks.com.
I have a special interest in this topic, since I have a website called Pink Truth. When the site was started a little over a year ago, it was called Mary Kay Sucks. I know, I know. I’m entitled to say it, but eventually I wondered if I was inviting trouble like the kind that Lowes dished out. When I started the site… I didn’t really have a mission or goal with it, and I had no idea it would become as popular as it is, so I didn’t think there was a problem with the name. A few months into it, I changed the name to Pink Truth.
The site in question proclaims boldly that Lowe’s Home Improvements Sucks. Lowes-sucks.com was started by a dissatisfied customer. The customer, Allen Harkleroad, had a fence installed by a “professional” from Lowe’s, but later saw that the $3,500 fee got him bad workmanship and an unstable fence. Lowe’s offered to fix the fence, and Harkleroad said he wouldn’t pay his outstanding balance until it was fixed. Lowe’s responded by turning his account over to collections.
How did Lowe’s decide to fight this bad PR? They sued for trademark infringement. How does that work? They accused him of unauthorized use of Lowe’s trademarks on his site, and that his use of them “…distorts the goodwill of LF’s federally-registered trademarks, and constitutes infringement of LF’s trademark rights.” Ars Technica notes that Harkleroad did not even have any of the company’s logos on his site, but merely used the company’s name to identify who he was complaining about.
Lowe’s made a settlement offer this week, and Harkleroad wrote this on his site:
My thanks to Lowe’s for allowing us to (possibly) come to a mutually acceptable agreement for both parties, that is of course if this all gets finalized as I do believe it will. If it does this will be the last post or comment I make about the issue on this web site.
Harkleroad has since made a counteroffer for settlement, but had not heard back as of the publishing of the article. His attorney wisely points out that trademark laws are meant to protect consumers, but not to stop consumers from talking about their experience with the owner of the trademark.