Someone I don't know has titled their blog with my name. What can I do?
February 11, 2005 5:02 PM   Subscribe

There's a guy out there on the web that has chosen to name his blog after me, Armando Bellmas. Instead of feeling flattered, I feel used. As a photographer my name is my business name, too, and I can't have this guy moving in on my turf. I don't know him nor have I given him permission to use my name. Plus, his blog is coming up in the top ten search results for my name at Google. He has not replied to any of my email inquiries and, short of calling an attorney for advice, I'm turning to you guys and the web for help. Thanks in advance.
posted by armando to Computers & Internet (31 answers total)
His name appears to be Dave Johnson, if you haven't figured that out yet. He lives in Madison, WI. Married, kids. You can probably get his phone number and address with this information. Good luck.
posted by aberrant at 5:09 PM on February 11, 2005

Armando, you should've told us over at that other site you used to visit. We would've sent the flying hairy buttmonkies after him...
You could contact Journalspace and make 'gonna get a lawyer and you're gonna get included in the mess' noises at them, and I'm sure they'd either pull the site down or make the guy change its name.
posted by SpecialK at 5:12 PM on February 11, 2005

I don't see your name on his blog... I'm missing it? Maybe it was removed? Is a photograph you took on his blog?
posted by quam at 5:19 PM on February 11, 2005

oh, I am blind; I did not look up. It is the page title. Hmmm...
posted by quam at 5:20 PM on February 11, 2005

I can't have this guy moving in on my turf.

What is the actual damage to you? This is not a rhetorical question. You may need to quantify this for your lawyer. Besides, a lawyer will actually cost you money, so unless this is really harming you in any way, why do you care?

Granted, you have a unique-sounding name, so I understand there are probably few Google results for you, but this isn't something most of us are able to control. You might want to look up Rick Santorum on Google for a prior case study.
posted by scarabic at 5:34 PM on February 11, 2005

Is Dave a photographer?
posted by quam at 5:38 PM on February 11, 2005

I don't understand why he would do this...kind of bizarre.
posted by lobstah at 5:47 PM on February 11, 2005

Hello, my name is David Shepherd, and about 1,870,000 web pages are using my name that I definitely am not associated with. All the way from painters, to cricket players (BTW: That's how I got my name), to insect studies, to wildlife foundations. Heck, there's a student with my name, too. Apparently, someone with my name is a mining researcher. There's much, much, much more, too.

Hell, eBay says they're selling me in the google ad. I never agreed to whore my body out.

From his comments:

"I call this 'Armando Bellmas' because if I could change my name, that is what I would call myself. I never will, change my name that is, but if I out for the latin lover. Even though i'm not Latin either..."

IOW, he has no clue about your name (or so one could assume) but he likes the sound of it.

BTW: Hiring an attorney is a total waste of time. Names, especially FULL NAMES are simply not useful for protecting a company at all. Notice how "Jenny Craig" and others always use a special logo design? They have the art copyrighted, and the logo as a trademark, but if my name were "Jenny Craig", I could start a "Jenny Craig" line of weightloss centres and there's not a damn thing they could do about it, as long as I don't use a similar logo to theirs.

For a real lawyer's opinion on the matter, check this out.

When you think it over, it's only fair. If I were a painter, why should I have to change *my* name just because there's another painter with the same name?

Now, if the person were defaming you, you'd have a different issue. As is, grab a beer and forget about it.
posted by shepd at 5:56 PM on February 11, 2005

Well, there's a MeFi member who uses my real name for a nick, and I disagree with him on pretty much everything. Took me a week to get over it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:07 PM on February 11, 2005

SpecialK is right. Consult an attorney. The merits of a lawsuit aside, a demand letter on law firm stationery is often sufficient. The fact that the user has ignored your correspondence will bolster your complaint.
posted by cribcage at 6:11 PM on February 11, 2005


is it possible this guy just copied the html (and css style) from a page of yours, and didn't notice he was keeping your title?
posted by orthogonality at 7:16 PM on February 11, 2005

You can trademark just a name. Billy Joel is a registered trademark, for example. Have you tried trademarking your name? Of course, unless he's a photographer, you wouldn't have much of a case for trademark infringement.
posted by goatdog at 7:43 PM on February 11, 2005

goatdog, just because you can trademark something doesn't mean your money was well spent.

I could submit a patent on a device with 101 buttons including all the english language letters and the USPTO would definately file it. Then it would end up in the trash. Yay.

goatdog, really, do you think that another artist named "Billy Joel" should have to change his birth given name just because some other person used it first? Hell no. The law knows this. This has happened before (although not in the music industry). The people suing lost. It will probably happen again, and the people suing will lose again. And again, and again. Etc.

But, let's pretend you're all famous and such, like Elizabeth Taylor famous, and people use your name on stuff you don't like. Heck, in this case nobody even has your name that is involved with the show! So you sue. Then you lose.

It doesn't get much clearer than this: "Actress Elizabeth Taylor cannot call her name a trademark and enjoin NBC from broadcasting a miniseries based on her life, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled..."

Here's another case, even BIGGER than the Liz Taylor case. The case of Nissan vs. Nissan. And, the winner? Uzi, at least right now. And trust me, Nissan motors has a LOT more money than Billy Joel, and Nissan computers a lot less money than most people (it's a computer store for crying out loud, they're broke).

The only benefit trademarking a personal name affords, as I see it, is that nobody else can trademark it as well. It doesn't afford you any other benefit at all. Think "I OWN THIS PIECE OF THE MOON AND YOU DON'T" and you'll see the value in that trademark.

Personally, if I got a letter from a lawyer about something like this, I'd print out goatse and send that back. Then I'd post the letter to the website. Hell, I'd even go to court and defend myself if sued. That's how certain I am that I'd win. Then I'd sue for lots of money for malicious litigation. MMmmm, free money.

Here's another set of losers in a band, "The Eagles", who actually have a name that is *ALMOST* not personal. WOW. And they gave up on their lawsuit.
posted by shepd at 8:06 PM on February 11, 2005

Change your name to something smegma-based. Even the porn sites won't move in on that stuff.
posted by dong_resin at 8:22 PM on February 11, 2005

Oh, those Madison people, I tell you.....
posted by lometogo at 8:33 PM on February 11, 2005

Start your own blog, with your name all over it, using blogger, and post to it daily with photography related stuff. YOu'll shoot up and become the number one version of yourself on the web. My name can be googled and I'm the number one hit, and my blog sucks and has no readers.
posted by mecran01 at 8:48 PM on February 11, 2005

It's not possible that he just copied some HTML. The blog is hosted on JournalSpace, which I know from experience would require him to manually enter the blog title in a form field (and it is easily changeable at any time, without affecting his URL).

Personally I don't think it's really worth stressing about, you're lucky to have a relatively unique name, and it's highly unlikely that his Google rank will rise much above what it is now.
posted by bruceyeah at 9:28 PM on February 11, 2005

"The merits of a lawsuit aside, a demand letter on law firm stationery is often sufficient. The fact that the user has ignored your correspondence will bolster your complaint."

Ugh. Don't be part of frivolous lawsuit culture. Besides contributing to a decline in civility, you're giving fodder to people who want to limit legitimate lawsuits. And you're giving a lawyer money to be a dick.

Also, I know a little bit about services that host blogs. I'd guess, since you have absolutely no legal ground for your complaint, they might not take it that seriously. You'll just look like, well, an asshole who threatens with bogus lawsuits.

The right answer's above: Start a site with your own name and get people to link to it or convince them to do so with the quality of your content. Even then, you still might not succeed, and not being the first result isn't the end of the world.

There are other people with my name in the world, and they probably deserve just as much as I do to be on top of the list in the search engine of their choice. But they're not, and they don't care that much, and that seems sensible.
posted by anildash at 9:33 PM on February 11, 2005

The right answer's above: Start a site with your own name and get people to link to it or convince them to do so with the quality of your content. Even then, you still might not succeed, and not being the first result isn't the end of the world.

It might be worth pointing out that this (the question asker) Armando Bellmas does have his own site and does appear as the first result.

His complaint is that the other guy appears in the top 10.
posted by vacapinta at 9:55 PM on February 11, 2005

Start a blog with his name and piss him off.
posted by xammerboy at 10:37 PM on February 11, 2005

if my name were "Jenny Craig", I could start a "Jenny Craig" line of weightloss centres and there's not a damn thing they could do about it, as long as I don't use a similar logo to theirs.

Not a damn thing except get you enjoined from inappropriately using their trademark. If my name were Sara Lee, you can sure as hell bet that I'd be forced to stop selling baked goods soon after I started.
posted by oaf at 12:46 AM on February 12, 2005

You've probably just boosted his google ranking by posting to his blog here with your name in the post.
posted by dodgygeezer at 1:18 AM on February 12, 2005

I can not believe no one has suggested this yet:

Ask him nicely to change it.

What is it with humans these days andinstantly thinking of the legal options, demand letters on formal stationary, so on and so forth. Just write the guy a nice email, explain your predicament. Don't even hint at threatening him, just say that you make part of your livelihood off of Google results and it would be really nice of him to change the name of his blog.

It really makes me sad that this option didn't occur to anyone else, even the asker.
posted by kavasa at 2:42 AM on February 12, 2005

Start a blog with his name and piss him off.

Don't do that. Then you will have unclean hands if you do ever try to take legal action.

kavasa: No one made your suggestion because everybody else actually read the question and saw that attempts to contact the blogger had failed.

You do have a Right of Publicity that prevents others from misappropriating your name or likeness. You would have to prove damages though (seems unlikely so far) or commercial use (ditto). I guess be on the lookout for him to start using AdSense.

If you really care and want to spend the money, talk to a lawyer. Or if you want to do more research, go to your local law library and find the Restatement of Torts 2d § 652C.
posted by grouse at 2:57 AM on February 12, 2005

grouse - ho ho! I sure am an idiot.

posted by kavasa at 4:18 AM on February 12, 2005

Michael: At least your name isn’t Michael Bolton.

Samir: Michael, there’s nothing wrong with that name.

Michael: There was nothing wrong with it. Until I was about nine years old and that no-talent ass clown became famous and started winning Grammys.

Samir: Well, why don’t just go by Mike, y’know?

Michael: Hey, why should I change? He’s the one who sucks.
posted by fletchmuy at 6:49 AM on February 12, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the feedback, folks. I appreciate each and every reply.

If the guy's name was actually Armando Bellmas, then I wouldn't have such a problem with it. However, it isn't. I don't assume that I'm the only Armando Bellmas in the world either. However, it's a pretty unique name to just think of out of the blue.

I'll likely avoid the legal route because the guy isn't slamming me or passing himself off as me. Also, I can think of plenty of other things to spend my time and money with without contributing to the litigous society we live in.

He still hasn't responded to the emails I sent him, though (nice ones, at that).
posted by armando at 6:57 AM on February 12, 2005

If you think anyone can use any name for their business, I defy you to use the name "McDonald" for any food-related business, "Olympic" or "Olympia" in any city (and sometimes country) that is hosting the olympics, and anything close to "Starbucks" for a coffee shop.

You'll soon find out that it is a very expensive and risk-fraught enterprise.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:22 AM on February 12, 2005

What's his email address? A little POLITE community support may assist.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:23 AM on February 12, 2005

Madison, WI?

I can sic my mom on him if you want.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:49 AM on February 12, 2005


"Olympic" & "Olympia" aren't personal names, AFAIK. So... you're off there. Trademarks are designed to protect unique marks. "The olympics" seems quite unique to me. Perhaps because I haven't lived in Greece I haven't met Mr and Mrs Olympic. If they exist, I'll be willing to change my mind.

Okay, that out of the way, I'm sure you know there's literally THOUSANDS of different companies operating under the McDonald name. HOWEVER, none of them operate as "McDonald's". Some of them *do* sell the same products as McDonald's (although most of them are internal products, like McWashing Machines [yes, this exists]). Heck, considering how many McDonald companies there are, I wouldn't be surprised if McDonald's bought from a McDonald company.

This is inline with Microsoft's trademark woes. They attempted to trademark "Window". That wasn't even allowed for obvious reasons. Trademarking "Windows" was.

It's a fine line, but it is most definitely there.
posted by shepd at 11:05 AM on February 12, 2005

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