Rent a Cert had caused a stir in the tech world with its offer to “rent out” Cisco certified engineers and technicians as a way to boost the profile of middleman companies that sell Cisco products. These middle men need a certain amount of certified professionals to qualify as “Gold” or “Silver” Cisco partners. Critics said Rent A Cert was juking the system by pimping out credentials, while the company defended itself as a legitimate recruiting agency.
Cisco hired Fenwick late last year to crush the Web site in the way that big firm lawyers do. Fenwick sent a lawyer letter to Rent A Cert’s Internet host asking it to take down the site. The Fenwick lawyers wrote that Rent A Cert was committing fraud with its scheme and trademark infringement by using the Cisco logo.
The plot thickens … after the jump:
This summer, months after Rent A Cert took down the allegedly offending portion of its Web site, the company turned around and sued (.pdf) Cisco and Fenwick, claiming the take-down notice citing fraud was, irony of ironies, a fraud. Rent a Cert’s lawyer Richard Borzouye — whose advertisements for legal services can be found on Craigslist — claims that Fenwick designed the letter (.pdf) to appear like a DMCA takedown notice, even though it wasn’t a copyright issue, unfairly scaring the company into taking down the site. (Confusing legalese that scares you into doing as you’re told? Isn’t that why lawyers write letters?). Borzouye also claims that the letter from Fenwick was libelous because it made accusations of “committing fraud.” Rent a Cert — whose parent company is the mysteriously named Twelve Inches Around Corp. — is looking for $15 million in damages because of its lost business.
Cisco hired Morgan Lewis and Edwards Angell to defend itself and Fenwick. They argue that the take-own notice can’t be an abuse of the DMCA because it wasn’t a DMCA takedown notice: It was a legal request under the Internet host’s policies on trademark infringement. They also argue that legal opinions are just that, opinions, and they therefore not liable for libel.
The motion to dismiss is currently pending before New York Federal Judge William H. Pauley III.
— Zusha Elinson