Founded in 2006 in Seattle, Avvo.com is an online legal services marketplace which provides lawyer referrals and access to a database of legal information, which helps them practice effectively. It provides ratings for 97% of practicing attorneys in the United States, essentially helping to market the trade and aid potential clients in choosing the right representation. On Tuesday, May 16th, the company won its battle against computer hackers accused of creating a knock-off site designed to dupe attorneys and their clients into disclosing their personal information.
Luckily, Avvo made its discovery of the clone site before it was even accessible to users and had the site immediately taken down. The company’s leaders stated that to their knowledge no users had revealed any information through the fake site. It then proceeded to seek litigation against the named defendants, Chang Liang and Huang Shaoging. Avvo was represented by attorney Marc Randazza of Randazza Law Group in the court battle. Randazza Legal Group represents clients in a wide array of First Amendment issues, copyright and trademark protection and infringement cases, defamation cases, domain name disputes and employment law matters. No defense attorney made a formal appearance on behalf of named defendants.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted a default motion in favor of Avvo in the amount of $2 million, plus its attorney fees. However, Randazza said it would be difficult for the plaintiff to collect the judgment, as well as the attorney fees, citing The Lanham Act in the press release, which only permits fee awards in “exceptional cases”. The U.S. Supreme Court declared in Octane Fitness that an exceptional case is one that “stands out from others”. It was never the intent of the company’s leaders to collect in pursuing the battle, he said. The suit was about protecting its users’ personal information, and that the general public, ensuring they are guarded against computer fraud. Randazza released a statement following the verdict, “Merely winning a case is not enough to qualify as ‘exceptional’ under the Lanham Act. The phishing scam and the degree of proof made this case exceptional. Randazza and the attorneys at Randazza Legal Group hope that this case will serve as a warning to hackers and thieves who engage in phishing scams.” He added, “We are delighted that Avvo had the confidence in us to handle such an important matter. The Court not only awarded damages and costs for prospective corrective advertising, but also granted full attorneys’ fees under the Octane Fitness standard. Avvo stood up to protect privacy, fight against phishing, and got a significant judgement.”
Avvo Chief Legal Officer Josh King was also thrilled with the court’s decision and assured the company’s customers that Avvo does everything possible to try and prevent these schemes. “We are deeply committed to helping consumers and lawyers connect, and take every precaution to protect the privacy and security of the millions of people visiting Avvo.com to do just that,” he said in the press statement. “We took immediate action to eliminate any threat to that protection, and are confident that the court’s judgment sends a strong message in deterring any future breaches to our secure and valued network.”