Yelp, the business rating service, has filed several
trademark infringement lawsuits seeking to shut down websites that purport to offer fake positive reviews in exchange for a fee.
Yelp recently sued the operators of YelpDirector, Revpley, and Revleap.me.
According to Yelp’s complaint,
Millions of people rely on online reviews from Yelp every day to help them make their purchasing decisions. While Yelp’s online reviews are a trusted resource for consumers to learn about local businesses, unfortunately some try to game the system and undermine that trust, by building businesses based on fraudulent reviews, invasive spam and conduct that otherwise violates the law.
The defendants’ sites post large numbers of four and five star reviews on the Yelp pages associated with their customers. Allegedly, the defendants also claim that they can “filter out” or “get rid of” bad legitimate reviews.
The complaint also alleges that the defendants’ websites violate Yelp’s trademark rights by using the Yelp name and logos in a way that suggests they are actually connected to Yelp and that consumers have been confused about Yelp’s connection with the defendants’ services and spam emails, mistakenly believing that they were associated with Yelp.
In October, Yelp won a trademark case against AdBlaze, another company that allegedly sold fake review services.
In order to gather evidence, Yelp created a fake business and then hired AdBlaze to write fake reviews for it.
The judge entered an injunction prohibiting the defendant from using Yelp’s name in ads or in domain names. However, the judge only awarded Yelp damages of $45,000 – less than the $2 million it initially sought.
AdBlaze reportedly charged close to $2,500 for 100 manufactured reviews. Yelp argued that $45,000 was not enough to deter the defendant, which could recoup the cost by selling only 18 review packages. The judge disagreed, saying,
While the plaintiff in a trademark infringement case is entitled to damages that will serve as a deterrent, it is not entitled to a windfall.
If you have questions about trademark law, please contact our office at 626-796-4000 or toll-free at 855-UR-IDEAS (855-874-3327) for a free initial consultation with one of our intellectual property attorneys. Please also visit our website for more information about us.
Photo Attribution: “The Yelp RV” by Brian Holsclaw – originally posted to Flickr as IMG_9392. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.