Using Social Media In David v. Goliath Legal Fights

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There’s a great article at law.com by Sheri Qualters about the power of social media when it comes to David-and-Goliath lawsuits, and how the little guys can mobilize online support in their defenses. The primary example listed in that article involves the Vermont man named Bo Muller-Moore, who started marketing t-shirts with the slogan ‘EAT MORE KALE’, and faced cease-and-desist orders from Chick-fil-A, who own the mark “Eat Mor Chikin”. Bo, who also goes by ‘The Eat More Kale Guy’, successfully fought off a round of cease-and-desists from Chick-fil-A in 2006, but now, as he tries to trademark his catchphrase, he’s facing a new round of legal challenges.

Though Muller-Moore is clearly outlawyered by the huge national corporation, he has one thing going for him: a well thought-out online presence and social media platform, which successfully paints him as the little guy being bullied by The Man. It’s a great way to draw attention to his plight, and also built support. A quick glance at his press page shows that he’s received coverage from the New York Times, NPR, CNN and the Huffington Post, as well as the support of Vermont governor Peter Shumlin. Eat More Kale also has a healthy Twitter and Facebook presence, an online petition, and  earlier this year, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about Bo, which raised almost $90,000. Why is all of this important? From Qualters’ article:

“Social media has really leveled the playing field to some extent in these kinds of disputes,” said Stephen Baird, who heads the intellectual property and trademark and brand management practice groups at Minneapolis-based Winthrop & Weinstine. “It used to be that a small business owner gets a demand letter and they fold up pretty quickly.”

This news story particularly spoke to me today, after the story yesterday about a woman from Norway named Linn, whose Amazon Kindle suddenly deleted all of the content that she had paid for, suspended her account, and refused to explain why. Linn would not have been able to defend herself in the courtroom against Amazon’s fleet of lawyers and their deliberately-crafted arbitration clauses. A blog post about the situation went viral on Twitter (yes, even ours) and bigger blogs, and today comes the update that – surprise, surprise – Linn’s account and purchases have been restored.

Twitter is often derided for being just another way to waste time (admittedly, at the time of writing this, the top two trending topics in America are #horsesandbayonets and #WeCantDateIf) but instances like this really show the potential for good for all social networks. When there is a sense of injustice, of corporate heavyhanded-ness, they can be a great way to rally for support and, as we saw yesterday, bring about some fairness. It remains to be seen how  the Eat Kale Guy will benefit from his online support, but it certainly can’t hurt.

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