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July 1, 2003 Vol. 58 No. 12 Back to Bulletin Main Page

Habeas Haiku Splatters Spam

Habeas, Inc. is taking a novel approach to combating unsolicited bulk commercial email, commonly known as “spam.” Founded in August 2002, Habeas provides a service to organizations that are frustrated by their non-spam email being blocked by Internet service providers’ spam filters. Unfortunately, Habeas’s efforts have been thwarted by spammers’ increasingly inventive methods.

Organizations that subscribe to Habeas’s service agree to follow its email rules and are licensed to use the HABEAS trademark and a copyrighted haiku poem, known in the Internet industry as a “warrant mark,” in the headers of their outgoing emails. Internet service providers such as America Online and Juno recognize Habeas’s marks and allow the associated emails to pass through spam filters to the intended recipients.

Habeas has filed its first two trademark lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The first suit alleges that a marketer committed trademark infringement through the unauthorized use of the HABEAS trademark in email headers to help ensure delivery of his unsolicited commercial bulk emails. The second suit includes a breach of contract claim—alleging that a Habeas subscriber sent out unsolicited commercial bulk email that violated Habeas’ email rules. In both suits, Habeas initially named as defendants the Internet networks used to send out the emails, but later dropped its claims against the networks after they agreed to terminate the accounts of spammers. The third-party providers were included in order to free them from legally binding privacy restrictions against revealing information about their users, according to Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., president and CEO of Habeas.

“As we have promised since we first launched, we will sue any individual or organization who abuses our trademark in order to send unwanted mail,” said Mitchell. “Spam is an epidemic. Habeas is built on the premise that our novel application of federal copyright and trademark protection can stop spam, which is time consuming, resource draining, and costs everyone money.”

Fighting spam with copyright and trademark law makes sense, according to Mitchell, because judges are comfortable with these well-established bodies of law. Although 26 states have anti-spam laws, there is no uniform definition of spam and current laws are ineffective against offshore mailers.

Editor: Tarah S. Grant, Hogan & Hartson L.L.P., McLean, Virginia, USA


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