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By Perry Binder

This is my first blog posting on smartbiz.com, and I’m excited to join fellow bloggers. I am a former business litigator and current legal studies professor at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business in Atlanta, Georgia. My expertise is in analyzing intellectual property (IP) disputes, employee blogging issues, and reputation risk matters faced by company executives in their Marketing and HR departments. While my posts can’t offer legal advice, hopefully they can help you navigate some tricky legal issues which emerge daily in cyberspace.


In the old days (not too long ago), if a customer didn’t like your product, he’d probably tell all of his friends not to buy it. If you made that customer angry, he might be motivated to call a local newspaper reporter or even picket in front of your store.

But today, with the press of a few buttons on a computer, that person can complain about your product worldwide through a “gripe site.”

A gripe site (the older cousin of opinion blogs) is a web site that contains unflattering comments about a company. Oftentimes, a consumer will take your company name and append the word “sucks” to it in a web site (YourCompanyNameSucks.com). In an effort to keep these sites out of angry customer hands, some companies proactively gobble up potential gripe site domain names by the dozens.

The question of how to protect your brand name on the web is a complicated mixture of trademark law, domain name purchasing savvy, and sound decision making on whether to try to shut down an existing gripe site. The law is complicated in this regard, as it revolves around the balance between a customer’s First Amendment right to an opinion and a company’s right to protect its good name.

Sometimes at the end of the day, the best advice is to do little or nothing about gripe sites because it could turn into a legal mess. Before doing anything drastic, here’s a .PDF of an article I wrote on the subject a few years ago, and an example of how a dispute can spin perilously out of control. If after reading this material you are motivated to shut down an angry gripe site, please stayed tuned to my future postings.

Next up: Should a company do anything about an employee who blogs about the company from home, off company time?

Perry Binder is an Assistant Professor of Legal studies at The Robinson College of Business of Georgia State University.



Perry Binder is a legal studies professor at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business.
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