The personal injury firm of Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo is seeking to represent people involved in Septa bus, trolley and train accidents and has put on the web a unique website and is using a vanity phone number. MySeptaLawyer.Com is the website and 888-SEPTA-Law is their telephone number. But now the firm of Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo, as well as managing partner Michael S. Mednick, have been sued by Septa for trademark and copyright infringement for using not just the Septa name in its advertising, but also the stylized “S” mark that Septa has as a registered trademark. The firm received a "cease and desist" letter from Septa’s lawyers in March 2010 but the law firm ignored the letter (or, more precisely, from their point of view, decided the cease and desist letter could be ignored because it had no legal merit). Now they have to defend against what appears will be a very costly lawsuit.
Is this bad lawyer advertising? Is it arguably misleading advertising? How is it misleading? The website displays an image of a SEPTA bus which is identical to an actual Septa bus, but with “MySeptaLawyer.Com” at the top front of the bus where the route number would normally appear.
of the Philadelphia based Beasley firm, one of my favorite bloggers, argues in his piece of August 9, 2010
that there is no way that consumers would mistake the Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo website which uses the Septa logo as somehow being affiliated with Septa or that somehow they are Septa endorsed lawyers. I agree with Max, and don’t profess to be an expert on trademark and copyright law. Nor am I commenting on the tastefulness of the advertisement. Rather, what also needs to be discussed is not which side will win the trademark infringement suit, but rather how the public may perceive this type of advertising and how Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo wants to be perceived by the public, to the disadvantage of Septa in this instance. The Third Circuit may very well decide this issue, and if Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo wins, other personal injury law firms in major cities with transit systems like that of Septa will copy their approach).
What is more problematic is that the website goes on to state,
SEPTA is considered a State agency and therefore, claims involving SEPTA involve more complex issues than most accident cases. This is because SEPTA is afforded certain immunities under the law, the same that apply to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In fact, Septa cases are no more or less complex than other accident cases from a legal perspective. All Pennsylvania accident cases involve a myriad of state and federal laws. For Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo to imply that accident victims involving Septa require the special knowledge of their law firm because of the “complexity” of Septa cases is somewhat misleading.
Nevertheless the founders of MySeptaLawyer.Com may be in a wrestling match with a well funded Commonwealth agency that could have easily been avoided by simply changing the appearance of the website.