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Yelp: Fake Review Sites Are Infringing

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The operators of the AdBlaze.com and BuyYelpReview.com websites allegedly are infringing Yelp's registered service marks and violating Yelp's website's terms of service by selling bogus reviews to help businesses “drown out” bad reviews they received on the Yelp website, the online review company contended in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California June 20 (Yelp Inc. v. Catron, N.D. Cal., No. 13-CV-2859, complaint filed 6/20/13).

According to the complaint, the defendants created accounts on the Yelp Inc. website in furtherance of their plans, violating Yelp's contractual prohibition on seeking payment in return for submitting a review. Yelp said it conducted a sting operation earlier in the year in which it was able to purchase fake reviews from defendants for a fictitious business Yelp created for the purpose.

Most of the defendants are not yet identified by Yelp. The one named defendant, Timothy Catron, was described by Yelp as “a pioneer of online fraud.” It pointed to testimony about Catron during a Congressional subcommittee hearing in 2000 where Catron was said to have operated a website offering fraudulent identification documents.

Among other claims, Yelp is suing for trademark infringement and unfair competition, in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1114, 1125(a), cybersquatting, breach of contract, and false advertising.

Yelp is seeking injunctive relief barring the defendants from accessing the Yelp website and offering to sell Yelp reviews, damages, and an order canceling the defendants' registration of the BuyYelpReview.com domain name or transferring it to Yelp.

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