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Judge Agrees: Perfectly Fine For Google To Deny Ad Placement For 'Honey Cures Cancer' Claims

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Eric Goldman brings us the dismissal of a lawsuit against Google that's… well, a bit on the unintentionally hilarious side. The lawsuit argues there's a First Amendment right for Google Ad placement -- one that circumvents Google's policies against allowing questionable claims like "Honey Cures Cancer!" -- and contains a request for $10 billion in damages.El Reg first reported on the lawsuit, filed by a former IBM senior engineer. Apparently tired of the rigorous science involved in his day job, Shajar Abid decided to branch out into speculative fiction.

Abid, who goes by the first name "Shaq" on LinkedIn, claims to have developed "a divine cure for cancer" consisting of "only honey herb and spice." Google, he insists, will not allow him to advertise the product through AdWords.He is seeking $10 billion for what he believes is a violation of his First Amendment speech and religious rights, for loss of business, and for pain and suffering. Also, he wants the opportunity to advertise on Google when people search for cancer cures.
Needless to say, it's a pro se lawsuit, which makes demands Google cover his legal costs a bit perplexing. In addition to the $10 billion, Abid wants the $88 he racked up in ad costs pre-cancellation to be nullified since there won't apparently be enough money to cover this if he wins.But he won't win, something readers may have picked up from the first line of this post. There are many reasons he won't win, but going pro se and alleging Google's denial of prime cancer-curing ad placement is somehow a government action is but one of them.Abid finds it odd Google won't let him claim honey cures cancer. Well, it will, but it just won't allow him to buy ad slots for this claim. Abid could start a blog or Facebook page or whatever, but he won't be allowed to promote it with Google AdWords. Prior legal issues with Google's pharma ad sales have resulted in policies that won't allow someone to claim they can cure cancer with honey, no matter how much they firmly believe it will. And Abid believes honey cures cancer as hard as anyone who stands to profit from this claim can possibly believe something. From the lawsuit [PDF]:
Last weekend on Friday March 31 -2017, i received an email that my site had been suspended. It was against google policies as they have details about selling pharmaceuticals etcs..I said ok, I will call and tell them, i studied the google rules, tell me what to change.So the first girl I talked to gave a half dozen modifications to do, including take out "divine cure for cancer," which is my sincerely held religious belief that it is.But what she doesn't know is I have done an intensive pharmacognosy study as well as other in depth proprietary research.I feel this was the first violation, obstructing my 1st amendment rights, however the kind and noble judge interprets.
References are cited.
My philosophy of medicine is based on Moses's wisdom. One time Mose got sick, so he prayed to God for guidance. God guided him to a plant. So he went and ate it. Then he was cured.
Also this:
I am combining a systems biology empirical approach based on prophetic medicine.
This culminates (sort of) in a Section 1983 claim, which is reserved for deprivation of rights by the government, which Google plainly isn't. (Or "even under the spirit of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," as the complaint states hopefully.)The judge points out the obvious in the dismissal [PDF]:
Plaintiff fails to state a § 1983 claim against Google. Plaintiff does not allege any facts suggesting Google is a government actor or was acting on behalf of the state.
And then notes Abid's opposition to Google's motion to dismiss states Google shouldn't even be a party to this lawsuit.
Moreover, Plaintiff’s Opposition appears to suggest that Google is not the proper defendant and that his claims in fact are against nonparty government entities. Opp’n at 3 (“My section 1983 claim should be applied against the US government, due to the gross negligence of both the FDA and the NIH[;] more than 1 year of work has gone into regulation for my small start-up only for FDA to trample my constitutional rights and NIH my civil rights.”). Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim. As Plaintiff argues the FDA and NIH violated his rights, not Google, the dismissal shall be WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.
There's a Sherman Act (antitrust) claim buried in the lawsuit as well, but the court doesn't like that approach either.
Plaintiff does not allege facts showing Google had a contract or agreement with LegitScript or any another entity that was intended to harm or unreasonably restrain competition. At most, Plaintiff alleges LegitScript was Google’s service provider. Mot. to Suppl. Pleadings ¶¶ 2, 12. But there are no facts showing Google sought to unreasonably restrain trade, let alone succeeded in doing so.
This will probably only confuse the plaintiff, who so persuasively argued Google was once found guilty of antitrust violations in another country.
I have attached proof Google has done anti-trustful things recently and has been punished by the EU.
The court also finds Abid's ads violated Google policy, which states it will not permit pharmaceutical ads for non-government approved products that present themselves as proven remedies for illnesses.Everything is dismissed with Abid given a chance to amend his complaint to fix its numerous deficiencies. The only exception is the Section 1983 claim against Google, which is so far off base (Google isn't the government) that no amount of amending would fix it.There's a big difference between feeling wronged and being actionably wronged. This lawsuit doesn't even come close to the latter. At this point, Abid has only some wounded pride and outstanding AdWords bill for $88. Filing pro se keeps the costs down but it doesn't do much for coherent legal arguments. And we're probably all better off with Google blocking ads that claim faith-infused honey cures cancer.

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-Apr-2018
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In 'N Out Uses A Bullshit Pop-Up Every Five Years Strategy Just To Lock Up Its Australian Trademark

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When we recently discussed the rather odd story of the famous burger chain In 'N Out suing an Australian burger joint over trademark concerns despite having no storefront presence in the country, there was one aspect of it glossed over in the source link and omitted by me that really deserves some fleshing out. You see, like here in America, Australian trademark law has a provision that you actually must be using the mark in question in order to retain it. More specifically, use must be established every five years in order to keep the trademark valid. Given that In 'N Out operates no storefronts in Australia, readers rightly wondered how it was possible that the company even had a valid trademark to wield in its trademark battle.The answer to that question is as cynical as it is perverse. It turns out that In 'N Out turns up so-called "pop-up" storefronts for its chain in Australia and a few other countries every so often, specifically to keep just barely within the trademark law provisions.

In Australia, in particular, trademark laws have a “use it or lose” quality to them. If they are not used within a five-year span of time, companies could lose protection for their names and logos. International businesses, though they may never create a fully running branch overseas, could be vulnerable to someone else taking their ideas in other countries if they apply for a trademark. This would dilute the brand in a whole host of ways. To avoid the misfortune of Burger King, who lost its trademark and had to become Hungry Jack’s, In-N-Out found a workaround to establishing a permanent presence in the Land Down Under by simply hosting pop-ups every so often to use their trademark in the country.
Cynical, as I said, and a serious perversion of the purpose of trademark laws generally. The entire point of trademark protections is to keep customers informed as to the source of goods purchased and the affiliations of the companies from which they purchase them. Remember that the context of this story and the chain's lawsuit is the existence of a single burger joint calling itself "Down 'N Out." While there is clear homage to In 'N Out, the burger joint does nothing to convince the public that it's part of the California chain.So, instead of serving the public good by staving off confusion, what this gaming of Australia's trademark law does instead is to simply lock up language similar to the In 'N Out name by maintaining an insultingly limited presence in the country's market. In 'N Out does not operate these pop-ups in order to server the Australian market. Rather, they operate them specifically so as to deny that Australian market its sort of business. These pop-ups have, ahem, popped up for years, with no sign of In 'N Out even considering having any real storefront presence anywhere in the country. Instead, the pop-ups serve only as an excuse to file lawsuits such as it did against Down 'N Out.Whatever you might think of In 'N Out's actual trademark claim in its lawsuit, that's truly about as cynical as it gets.

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-Apr-2018
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This Week In Techdirt History: April 15th - 21st

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2013, as the fallout for Prenda Law continued, we shifted our focus to the cybersecurity bill CISPA. While the White House was threatening to veto it if the privacy issues were not addressed, the House was rejecting all the amendments that might actually do so and its sponsors were ignoring the fact that it would render online privacy agreements meaningless. Sponsor Mike Rogers (whose wife, surprise surprise, stood to benefit hugely from the bill) made his infamous comment about the only opposition being 14-year-olds in their basement, prompting rapid and widespread backlash. We knew from history how the bill would be abused, and the only amendment that was being truly considered was pretty toothless. Then, of course, the bill was passed by the House, with 288 supporters.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2008, the threat to privacy was the DHS's domestic spy satellites — but more was happening on the copyright front, such as J. K. Rowling trying to use emotional appeals to block a Harry Potter guidebook and push silly legal theories like the idea that spoilers are copyright infringement. And Warner Bros. was threatening the filmmaker behind the movie Troll, which he was seeking to remake, because it happened to have a character named Harry Potter ten years before Rowling's books were written. Hollywood was starting to turn its attention to 3D movies as a way to revive cinemas, the recording industry was seeking more money because it deigned to let people transfer media between devices, and we took a look at how everyone overvalues content and undervalues services.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2003, it was the ten-year anniversary of the release of Mosaic, the first "major" web browser. The entertainment industry was succeeding in its crusade against piracy within various organizations, with CIO Magazine telling corporations to worry about the legal issues of employee downloading, and a bunch of Naval Academy students being disciplined for sharing music. Copyright fears were holding back books about hacking and internet security research and — in an early precursor to the sort of sharing that would be formalized by CISPA a decade later — the government was asking corporations to hand over details on their infrastructure and just trust the agencies to keep it safe.

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posted at: 12:00am on 22-Apr-2018
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Tapjoy Study: Exploring the Effect of Rewarded Ads on User Value

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New Maximum Impact Report finds that sessions, retention rates and spend all climb steadily as consumers complete greater amounts of rewarded ads. Tapjoy, the Maximum Impact Platform for mobile advertisers and app developers, published a new study showing that the more rewarded advertisements a mobile app user completes, the higher their engagement, retention and in-app […]The post Tapjoy Study: Exploring the Effect of Rewarded Ads on User Value appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 21-Apr-2018
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