Habeas Files First Spam Suits

Spam fighter Habeas announced Friday that it filed two lawsuits earlier this week to test its unique approach to fighting spam with copyright and trademark law.

The first suit was filed against online mortgage service Avalend and its parent company InterMark Media, alleging the company infringed on Habeas’ trademark by using Habeas’ haiku in their bulk e-mails to assure delivery. The second lawsuit, alleging breach of contract, was filed against two individuals, Dale Heller and Stan Stuchinski, alleging they conspired to send spam under Habeas’ sender-warranted e-mail seal. ClickBank and its parent company Keynetics are named in the suit for running Stuchinski’s affiliate program.

Both lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court in California.

“The whole issue of spam and who is sending stuff is pretty murky,” said Anne Mitchell, chief executive and president of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Habeas. “This is how these people are doing business on the Internet and getting away with it.”

Defendants in both lawsuits said they have done nothing wrong, professing not to know what Habeas is.

The company was founded last August with a novel approach to fighting the spam epidemic. Habeas includes a copyrighted haiku poem, known as a warrant mark, in e-mail headers. With the Habeas service, e-mailers must agree to abide by Habeas’ e-mail rules to send out mailing with the Habeas warrant. Those violating the warrant are liable to prosecution.

A number of spam filters have incorporated Habeas into their systems, including Spam Assassin, Mail Filters, Mail Shell, and I Hate Spam. The company says 300 million e-mail addresses worldwide use the system.

InterMark Media is a Syosset, N.Y.-based company that markets financial services, such as debt consolidation, over the Internet. According to Habeas, InterMark infringed on Habeas’ trademark to help assure delivery of its marketing e-mails.

Mike Krongel, InterMark’s president, said the company buys banner ads and rents e-mail lists. He said the company has a strict policy against blind e-mailings.

“I’ve never even heard of them,” said Krongel said of Habeas, adding that he had not received a copy of the lawsuit.

Mitchell said Habeas had not been able to locate Krongel to serve him with the lawsuit.

Krongel said InterMark does not engage in spam, although it is the subject of a spam-related suit in Utah, where it is accused of violating the state’s requirement that commercial bulk e-mail include “ADV” in the subject line

In the case of Heller, Habeas alleges he signed the Habeas license but did not comply with the terms in marketing Stuchinski’s e-book on Internet marketing, “Secrets of the Big Dogs.” ClickBank and its parent company Keynetics are named as co-defendants for advertising in Heller’s e-mail.

Stuchinski, who operates out of Hollidaysburg, Penn., called the suit “insanely frivolous.”

“I have never even heard of a company with that name,” Stuchinski said of Habeas. “We take steps to run a tight ship and not do anything unethical or immoral.”

While Habeas’ suit describes a conspiracy, Stuchinski paints a more innocuous picture. He said Dale Heller bought “Secrets of the Big Dogs” about a month ago, and soon after sent him an e-mail to become part of Stuchinski’s affiliate-marketing program through his company BigDogSecrets.com. Stuchinski said he has thousands of affiliates in over 100 countries. The affiliates market the Big Dog Secrets e-book in a variety of ways, with unsolicited bulk e-mail off limits, according to Stuchinski.

“I have never met with Mr. Heller or communicated with him by e-mail or phone,” he said. “As far as what he does via his marketing, I have no clue.”

Clickbank’s role in the suit also bewildered Stuchinski, since the company only handles the online-payment system for the e-book. Habeas named Clickbank and Keynetics as co-defendants, saying they acted as middleman by running the affiliate program for Stuchinski.

“They’re all benefiting from the infringement of our trademark, so they’re all culpable” Mitchell said. “Affiliate spam is one of the biggest producers of the spam that eating up the Internet now.”

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