Shopzilla sends bottle to make amends for trademark whine

Much ado about a single link in an old blog post that didn’t violate anything

All's well that ends well, right? I mean especially when, as here, that ending comes complete with a bottle of wine and a box of Twix candy bars.



Here's what happened: On April 17, a small London-based Internet marketing company named Datadial received an email from a law firm representing the U.K. arm of Shopzilla, a large comparison-shopping site. The email alleged that Datadial had violated Shopzilla's trademark by - get this - simply linking to in a blog post. Remove that offending link, Shopzilla's attorneys stomped, or there will be legal hell to pay, followed by the financial kind.

Oh, and did I mention that the blog post with the allegedly trademark-infringing link was three years old? Three years.

Gobsmacked by the demand, Datadial did two things.  First, it removed the link - hey, we're talking about a 15-person outfit being targeted by lawyers for a large company named after a giant monster that was created by nuclear explosions.

(IT pro has a hair-raising hobby.)

And then, being savvy Internet marketers who recognize opportunity when it knocks like a giant monster, Datadial posted a lengthy screed to the very same blog spelling out in snarky detail the absolute absurdity of the trademark assertion. That post, written by Datadial's Joe Shervell, cheekily reported that the original author - the one who had executed that link three years ago -- was so distraught over the infringement accusation as to be torn between fleeing to a monastery and suing Shopzilla for inflicting emotional distress.


"However, he quickly rationalised the situation and sat down on his sofa with a glass of wine and a Twix," writes Shervell. "Since Shopzilla and its lawyers are solely responsible for causing an undue amount of stress, it only seems fair that they reimburse him for the glass of wine and Twix. Twix: £0.80. Glass of wine: £2.40 (or about $5 total, American.)"

Bet you were wondering when I'd get to the wine and Twix.

Once Shervell had finished upbraiding Shopzilla and its ham-handed legal muscle, readers of the Datadial blog were having a merry old time mocking them as well, until ... a Shopzilla executive went and spoiled all the fun by posting a comment in behalf of his employer.

"I'm terribly sorry you received the letter from our attorney's office," writes David Bixler, vice president of operations for Shopzilla Europe. "We appreciate that your site is not a spam site and is not misusing our trademark. We flag up thousands of backlinks that are potentially spam and unfortunately your site slipped through our filter. Please disregard the notice and let me know if the wine was red or white ... I'm sure I can find some Twix as well."

No idle boast. A short time later, while Shervell and I were swapping email about the trademark matter, there was another knock on Datadial's door: "We just received a courier delivery. It was a bag labeled Shopzilla with giftwrapped presents inside. One bottle of wine, one box of Twixes."

(Ever done the Laptop Drive of Shame?)

So, all's well? Not entirely, according to Shervell, and it's not all Shopzilla's fault; he says Google's role needs to be noted.

"I think (the episode) says something nasty about the society Google has created," he tells me. "We already had litigation before the Internet came along, but Google's robots create a new environment where companies become tense about what should be casual online practices. I'm sure this wouldn't have happened two years ago (before Google's algorithm changes dubbed Panda and Penguin). It's another negative effect of Google's best intentions ... it creates a kind of state of panic."

Wine and candy can only help.

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