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Idaho couple and Sun Valley in Twitter tussle

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A central Idaho couple is suing the Sun Valley Co. and the Twitter Inc. social media site seeking to bar the resort from using the handle "SunValley."

Leonard Barshack and Erin Smith, the husband and wife, also said the San Francisco-based company should return the Internet handle to them because they had been using it for about three years and weren't impersonating the Idaho resort.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports the resort sought to use the handle in October. That's when Twitter sent Barshack an email, saying he was in violation of the Twitter's rules.

"At that time, Twitter gave the following reason for the suspension, 'We have received a valid report and determined that your account, (at)sunvalley, is engaged in non-parody impersonation,'" according to the Barshack's complaint, filed earlier this month in Idaho's 5th District Court in Blaine County.

Twitter's policy — meant to curb unwanted or inappropriate Internet impersonation — mandates that an account's profile information "should make it clear that the creator of the account is not actually the same person or entity" as the subject of the impersonation.

But Barshack contends he never impersonated Sun Valley and only periodically sent messages, or tweets, since registering for the handle around April 2010.

He said his tweets covered a variety of subjects, including Apple products like the iPhone, local weather, including ski conditions, a pig roast and skiing.

He told The Associated Press on Monday that he wasn't trying to undermine the resort's operation or reputation.

"My long-term plan was to promote local business," Barshack said. "One day I woke up, and Twitter had taken my handle away."

He contends that Twitter has provided him a "boiler plate" response to multiple emails he sent seeking to have the handle returned to his control.

"I never could get anywhere," he said.

Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley's spokesman, didn't return a phone call. Twitter also didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

The complaint acknowledges Barshack used an image of a sun to accompany his tweets, but he contends it was sufficiently different from the resort's trademark so as not to cause confusion.

The resort's logo consists of a sun, positioned above and to the right side of the words "Sun Valley," according to the complaint, which adds that the resort allowed its registration for a stand-alone sun to lapse.

Barshack contends he used only a stand-alone sun to accompany his tweets.

In the lawsuit, he wants attorney's fees and any other compensation the court deems appropriate.


Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, http://www.mtexpress.com