I’m surprised at the grounds used in a lawsuit referred by AdPulp today (citing Consumerist). One Matthew Ghali created a web site documenting the bad service he received at Golden Gate Volkswagen. The dealership and its owner, Mathew Zaheri, sued him for $1·5 million, using trademark law!
After arbitration, the parties agreed to what content could remain on Mr Ghali’s web site.
There are very obvious comments that could be made here. Why would a company try to deny a consumer’s First Amendment rights? And the grounds used by Mr Zaheri were ridiculous, though credit to his law ﬁrm—they could have made it worse by making it a case on free speech.
The right way to have gone about this was to admit to some wrongdoing and allow Mr Ghali to document a resolution. Consumer voices cannot be silenced. I hope that the law ﬁrm had strongly advised Golden Gate VW and Mr Zaheri that his lawsuit was, at best, frivolous, rather than extend its palms outward for some fees.
The consequence of this? Golden Gate VW’s brand equity will reduce rapidly as this story is propagated. Mr Zaheri will be thought of as intolerant. And, Volkswagen’s own brand will be harmed because it could not act to help Mr Ghali.
Meanwhile, less litigious nations will be laughing at the plaintiffs, because this sort of thing reinforces a stereotype about the United States.
Del.icio.us tags: brand | brand equity | Volkswagen | VW | consumer movement | customer service | lawsuit | whistle-blowing | frivolous lawsuits | law | First Amendment | trademark law | freedom of speech Posted by Jack Yan, 03:20
Update: the Overlawyered blog does not help the stereotype, though admittedly it covers some ridiculous cases in the UK and Canada, too. After reading this, you’ll wonder why Vice-President Cheney did not shoot a few more.Post a Comment
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