Music Group Services, US and its offshore affiliate have filed a Seattle U.S. District Court lawsuit for a host of John Doe claims related to “unauthorized” statements made via Twitter feeds.
Music Group is a holding company for a number of different brands of professional-grade music production and performance equipment, including loudspeakers, amplifiers, mixers, computer-based recording and DJ products, microphones, headphones, wireless systems, musical instruments and lighting systems. Among the several brands held by Music Group is Behringer, a company founded by Swiss musician Uli Behringer, who pioneered the development and China-based manufacture of professional-grade mixing equipment, making mixers available at more affordable price levels.
The Music Group lawsuit alleges that one or more Doe parties registered the Twitter accounts “Fake Uli Behringer” and “NotUliBehringer” and made various disparaging tweets against Music Group during early 2010. This allegedly “included assertions that MUSIC Group supported tax evasion, domestic violence, child abuse, and misogyny,” as well as posting other damaging remarks about Music Group products, employees and contractors. Music Group suspects that one of the Does is a current of former employee of Music Group.
Last month, according to the lawsuit, Twitter responded to Music Group’s notice and supposedly refused to remove the offending tweets or de-activate the accounts.
The complaint contains numerous counts including violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1030; violations of the Lanham Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125 (cyberpiracy, trademark infringement, trade name infringement and false designation of origin); unfair competition under state and federal law; copyright infringement; and breach of contract.
My initial thought upon understanding that the offending tweets were all made during early 2010 was whether the Does might argue for a statute of limitations defense. Although the Lanham Act does not have its own statute of limitations, courts have used limitations periods contained in “related” contracts between the parties, or limitations periods in “analogous” state statutes. In Washington State, a six-year statute of limitations applies to claims for breach of written contracts (RCW 4.16.040), while a three-year limitations period applies to general claims for injury to persons or property, fraud, and claims arising from oral contacts (RCW 4.16.080). The Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 507) states a three-year limitations period for civil copyright claims. It is possible that Music Group could claim to have “discovered” the tweets sometime later than the initial postings, and seek a delay or “tolling” of the running of the limitations periods.
The suit was filed by Seattle law firm Seed Intellectual Property Group PLLC under Case No. 14-cv-621 (W.D. Wash.)