Lawyer Asman Drops Lawsuit Against EFF, But Claims That ‘Ass man’ Comments Are Defamatory

We just recently wrote about a ridiculously bad lawsuit filed on behalf of patent attorney Scott Horstemeyer against the EFF after EFF called his stupid patent “stupid.” It appears that Horstemeyer has hopefully come to his senses, as the lawsuit has been dismissed — though without prejudice, meaning it’s still possible he could file it again.

The lawsuit itself was filed by a lawyer named Sanford Asman. And, as Joe Mullin at Ars Technica pointed out, Asman was the same lawyer who, just a couple weeks earlier, had been threatening a small 3 person startup called CaseRails, arguing that it infringed on his trademark for CaseWeb. We had thought about writing about that nutty story at the time, but never got around to it. Suffice it to say, like so many trademark cases, it appeared to be one of massive overreach, where Asman believed that just because he had websites and trademarks for CaseWebs and CaseSpace, other websites/startups using “case” were infringing. From Ars’ original coverage:

Asman controls websites and related trademarks for the terms “CaseWebs” and “CaseSpace.” CaseWebs.com hosts litigation support software, written by Asman, which organizes a variety of legal documents by case; it’s something he uses himself and licenses to other lawyers. The CaseWebs and CaseSpace trademarks are close enough to entitle him to control of CaseRails, he says. In fact, as Asman explained to Ars in an interview, he believes he owns any Web-based legal service that uses the word “case” in its name.

“He called me and we talked for about half an hour about him and his business,” Dykema said of his conversation with Asman. “Then he said, ‘I’m going to ask you to change your name.’ I’m like—what? Then the conversation got really threatening. He said, ‘I’m going to sue you, I’ve sued people before.'”

As the article notes, Asman did, in fact, sue another company called CaseWorks, with CaseWorks giving in and handing over its own domain and trademark. The article is not kind to Asman, but basically uses his own words to hang him:

When I called Asman to ask about his beef with CaseRails, his first question was directed at me.

“How are you even aware of it?” he asked curtly.

Dykema, a longtime Ars reader, had reached out to me, I explained. “Well, I’m sure they told you all kinds of stories,” Asman said.

Talking to Asman on the phone is a lot like reading the trademark lawsuit he filed against CaseWorks Web—it involves a lot of listening to his biography. His CaseWorks lawsuit, filed in 2009, includes 15 pages of background description on Asman and describes in detail how his CaseWebs software works. Asman has a computer science degree from MIT and has been practicing law for 43 years. He first started developing legal software in 1977.

Oh, and then there’s this lovely tidbit, in which Mullin tries to explain to Asman why he’s probably wrong that any company with “case” in its name infringes:

Since “case” alone is often used as a synonym for “lawsuit,” I pointed out to Asman that there are numerous online legal services that use “case” as part of their name.

“Like what?” he asked.

I pointed out a few I had found, such as CaseFlex and CaseLoop. Asman didn’t respond immediately—he was taking notes.

“Thank you for bringing them to my attention,” he said. ”I may decide to take action against one or both of them.”

Seems like such a great guy.

Anyway… that brings us to the latest. In which Asman did go forward with his threat to sue CaseRails and the filing makes for some crazy reading. Asman is representing himself pro se, which should already be a warning sign.

As with Mullin’s description of that last lawsuit against CaseWorks, this latest lawsuit contains pages and pages of background on Asman himself — including arguing that he developed legal software “likely before [CaseRails founders] were even born.” And then goes on to more or less insist that only he can use “case” and another term when offering any kind of legal software — something that is a very… interesting… interpretation of trademark law.

The lawsuit lays out all the typical trademark infringement claims (all of which seem like a longshot in my opinion), but then adds a defamation claim because of the Ars article… and comments on the article that made fun of Asman by calling him “Ass man.”:

Notwithstanding the fact that the Cease and Desist Letter was a private communication between Asman, on one hand, and Defendants Dykema, Zeller, and CaseRails, on the other hand, on information and belief Dykema disclosed such communication to an online “blog” site at http://www.arstechnica.com, and he encouraged that website to publish derogatory comments as to Asman, and such publication did, in fact, take place, whereby, inter alia, (1) Asman was referred to as “Ass man”; (2) one of the readers of the blog apparently registered the domain “sanfordasman.com” and is using it to link to another website (namely, “The Scuzz Feed” which appears under the url, “sanfordasman.com”) that Asman does not sponsor or endorse.

Yikes. First off, the fact that the cease and desist was “private” is meaningless. CaseRails has every right in the world to pass that on to the media. Second, you’ll note that Asman identifies no actual statements of fact that are defamatory. The best he gets is an insane stretch that because CaseRails passed on the threat letter to Ars and because Ars wrote an article that resulted in defamatory comments. But even if there were defamatory comments, there’s no way that the liability would fall on CaseRails (or Ars Technica for that matter, which Asman has not yet tried to sue).

Asman tries to get around the fact that there’s simply no way to blame CaseRails by arguing that because one of CaseRails founders is a “media” expert, he “knew” what would happen:

On information and belief Dyksema is, or has been, and adjunct professor of “Media Law” at New York University, whereby he had, or should have had, knowledge as to the way that viewers of websites such as arstechnica.com would react and comment when a “slanted” article was published.

It is apparent from the Server Logs of the casewebs.com and casespace.com websites that there were numerous (unsuccessful) attempts to infiltrate those websites upon the publication of the “article” induced by Dykema.

All of the foregoing demonstrate that Dykema, an authority on “media” knew, or should have known, that his actions in providing information, including false quotes attributed to Asman, to arstechnica.com would, and did, in fact, result in unwarranted harassment of Asman, as well as the aforementioned attempts to breach the security of Asman’s websites.

This is an even more ridiculous defamation and harassment argument than the one Asman came up with in the lawsuit against EFF. And, of course, in making these arguments, he’s just drawing a lot more attention to himself and the fact that some sophomoric commenter referred to him as Ass man.

Asman also thinks there’s some “conspiracy” because CaseRails refers to itself as CaseRails even though the official legal entity is DocRails, as if he’s never come across companies using names other than their registered names as their company identities (hint: this is very, very, very common).

Anyway, this lawsuit seems ridiculous and only serves to draw that much more attention to Asman’s nutty arguments and bullying. Oh, and as for him getting so upset about a commenter calling him “ass man,” perhaps he should — like Kramer — learn to embrace it.

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