A judge has once again rebuffed Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s efforts to unmask the people who used his name to launch racist attacks on a rival.
In an order issued yesterday in San Francisco, US Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James said the impostors had not used Paul’s name in a commercial fashion—meaning his trademark claims were ineligible.
The Paul campaign first filed the lawsuit in January after a person or group named NHLiberty4Paul put out a YouTube (NSDQ:GOOG - News) video that suggested formal rival Jon Huntsman was a Chinese agent. Huntsman dropped out of the race after the primary in New Hampshire.
Paul has disavowed any association with NHLiberty4Paul which also put out a series of tweets under the same name. Paul supporters have accused the Huntsman campaign of putting out the video as a dirty trick tactic.
The Paul campaign wants to sue NHLiberty4Paul but must first obtain an order directing YouTube and Twitter to disclose the real people behind the name (the lawsuit for now refers to “John Does”).
In January, Judge James refused to require the companies to disclose then name because Paul’s first complaint had not shown “good cause.” In response to an amended complaint, James this week wrote that the campaign could not use federal trademark law—which is normally used to protects goods and services—because the YouTube video and tweets were not commercial in nature.
In her order, the judge cited an earlier case in which a Utah court refused to let Koch Industries, an influential Republican donor, use trademark law to unveil pranksters who had issued a press release stating that Koch would no longer fund anti-climate change science.
In a footnote at the end of decision, Judge James appears to suggest that Paul’s federal claims are shaky but that he could pursue his related claims for defamation in state court:
Plaintiff’s decision to not pursue this claim in state court and instead assert novel trademark claims that appear to have never previously been addressed by the federal courts requires this Court to first be satisfied that they are viable claims before permitting expedited discovery.
Ron Paul is still in the Republican primary. He has yet to win a state but has reportedly amassed 22 delegates from states that don’t use a winner-take-all system.
The judge’s order is below. Via Professor Eric Goldman’s Technology and Marketing Law Blog.
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