BoycottZales.Com: Diamonds Are For Never

Over at Boycottzales.com, customers share horror stories of dealings with the jewelry store that bespotts many a suburban mall. The tales include allegations of Mr. Clean being used to spruce up jewelry, minorities being paid more than Caucasians, and engagement rings going in for repairs and never coming out.

Not three weeks into having the site up, the site’s proprietor, Barry, received a cease and desist letter from a Zales attorney. The letter accuses Barry of trademark infringement and defamation.

We’re no lawyers but we’re pretty sure Zales has no case, the site’s disclaimer fairly shields them from the legal threats, and Zales should go stuff it in their coal mine. Check it out and decide for yourself, after the jump…

This is an excerpt Barry received on June 3, 2006 from the law firm of GONZALEZ, SAGIO & HARLAN, L.L.P:

We note that you have created and maintained a website entitled “BoycottZales.com.” You are hereby instructed to immediately cease and desist from maintaining this website. As we indicated to you earlier, we believe that maintaining the same infringes upon Zales’ trademark rights. This will not be tolerated. If you do not cease and desist, I will advise my client to seek to protect its business interest accordingly.

Furthermore, several of the statements made on your website relating to certain Zales employees and stores are incorrect and rise to the level of defamation. Defamation occurs when an individual makes a false statement that is communicated in writing or speech to a person other than the person defamed that is unprivileged and tends to harm that person’s reputation so as to lower that person’s esteem in the community or to deter third parties from associating or dealing with that person. The comments made on your website clearly fall within the purview of this definition. If you do not cease and desist, I will advise my client to protect its interest with regard to this as well.

What do you think? Any advice for Barry? Zales: hot or not?

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. konstantConsumer says:

    while i’m not an attorney (i just play one in the bedroom), i would say that zale’s is pretty off base. i don’t see how it could possibly be copyright infringement. defamation? it’s not if he is just complaining about the store. it’s not as if he is saying that they make diamonds out of babies or kill people in order to steal and resell their jewelry. which they do. they did that to my mom. seriously. zale’s killed my mom and then tried to sell her jewelry.

    also, i am crazy.

  2. Paul D says:

    No decent human being should be buying diamonds or other gemstones anyway. The truth about the working conditions under which they are mined, and the ways they are marketed and sold will make your stomach turn.

    10 Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond

    Then there’s the diamond industry’s ridiculous and disingenuous attempt to have it both ways: the Right-Hand Freedom Ring. “Celebrate your freedom and individuality by wearing a diamond ring on your RIGHT hand. Now YOU can wear a diamond ring just like your married friends!”

    Don’t wait for a MAN to buy you a diamond! Treat yourself!…

    What a crock.

    Eff Debeers, eff Zales!

    Paul D, gemstone-free for life!

  3. Smoking Pope says:

    Is there recourse for an individual who is run through the wringer by a litigation-happy corporation? I mean, Zales’ claim is out of line, but what’s keeping them from driving the site under by burying the owner under a mountain of legal bills?

    In short, does this guy have something to say to Zales other than “You’re wrong, asshats”?

  4. matto says:

    I went through the same sort of misery.
    Here’s what all my hubbub was about.

    The short answer is that while he’s probably in the right, Zales has lots of pre-tax money they can spend on lawyers, who will bleed poor Barry dry, as he spends his post-tax hard-earned income on lawyers of his own.

    The reality is that even were he to emerge from a trial victorious, the legal costs of the trial would probably top a hundred grand. And since there’s little chance of a pre-trial summary judgement in his favor, the chances of him recovering legal fees from Zales are right about zero.

  5. Ran Kailie says:

    Diamonds are hideous anyways, but I agree Zales doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on, seems more like they’re trying to scare him to get him to take the site down.

    With Defamation it falls upon the victim to be able to prove to the courts that the statements being made are false and harmful. It would be hard pressed for Zales to prove the statements made by the customers are false. They also have to prove the statement was made with malice, and not with just the desire to provide information to the public.

    But as long as he’s presenting it as opinion and not as fact, he’s fine, especially because it can be seen as a matter of public interest.

  6. Smoking Pope says:

    To answer the question “What should Barry do?”, I’d see if you could find a lawyer to quickly review things, which hopefully wouldn’t cost more than a c-note.

    Standing up for yourself is obviously what you’d want to do, but if you’ve got a family, mortgage, bills to pay, etc. you do have to weigh the potential legal fees into the equation and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.

    As for publicizing things, giving a large company a black eye is a double edged sword. Some companies will use the opportunity to change things and address any wrondoing. But some will dig their heels in and fight like crazy. Lots of luck.

  7. Ran Kailie says:

    Hmm, my post disappeared, personally speaking I think diamonds are ugly and boring and there are better ways for someone to show their love to me them some compressed carbon. Though i do like the memory diamonds made from human ash.

    As far as this goes, Zales doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on besides having lots of money. They would need to prove the site was put up with malice as the intent and that the information put there is put forth as fact and not opinion.

    Neither are true and they’d have a hard time proving that to a judge.

  8. matto says:

    Oop, sorry for the double-post; the first one wedged with an error!

  9. ModerateSnark says:

    What should be obvious advice:

    There’s helpful info at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org).

    Download and read the free pdf publications about blogger’s rights linked in the last paragraph on this page: Link. (This page is a request for support but it has useful info, too.)

    The pdf publications are Legal Guide for Bloggers and How to Blog Safely.

    If things escalate, you might want to contact them directly and see if they can help you.

  10. Elvisisdead says:

    Matt,
    Way to go! The kind of folks like you who will stick to it to are few and far between. Thanks for doing what most people don’t have the courage/energy/resources to do. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the movie Jack Bull. John Cusack in a similar situation.

  11. ModerateSnark says:

    Ok, I found another link without the pitch for contributions:
    http://www.eff.org/bloggers/

    Legal Guide for Bloggers and How To Blog Safely are also available from this page.

    Anyone want a brief summary of what EFF is and does? Go here: http://www.eff.org/about/

  12. sachmet says:

    Send the C&D to Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, where they maintain a record of these things and tie them together with relevant law.

    This is nothing more than a company trying to bully criticism of their product off the domain. To prove defamation, they must first prove that the statements are not true. This is legal blustering, plain and simple.

  13. ModerateSnark says:

    I first tried to post this minor correction a couple of hours ago, but I guess Gawker’s comment system went wonky, so I’ll try again:

    Oops. Minor correction:

    Those EFF guides are apparently html web page format only. I “mis-remembered” them as being pdfs.

    The Legal Guide for Bloggers is here:
    http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/

    If you want to make a printout or a pdf, click the “Print this Guide” link at the bottom of the left column. It’ll be about 22 pages long (your mileage may vary).

  14. OkiMike says:

    I read several of the above links. Fortunately or unfortunately, my fiance has a wonderul diamond that I’m very proud to have given her.

    I know, I know…I’m a sucker. But I’ve never been prouder to be a sucker than when I stare at that rock on her finger.

  15. OkiMike says:

    Now, all that’s left is for me to get my diamond for my right hand…

  16. Falconfire says:

    here is my question, where can you go to find non-diamond engagement rings. No matter where I turn they all refuse to not sell me a non-diamond one, and spout out bullshit about it always being that way despite the whole diamond ring thing being a recent 20th century thing.

  17. Ran Kailie says:

    Response to Falconfire:

    Its not hard, just ignore the sales people, and go to a store that sells gems other then diamonds, personally speaking I love antique jewelry and rubies, we have a place here in DC called the Tiny Jewel box that sells antique and other types of jewelry.

    Try a flea market, or antique stores.

  18. The Unicorn says:

    Falcon — don’t bother telling them it’s an engagement ring. After all, there’s nothing about any particular ring that makes it an “engagement” ring other than the whole, you know, “wanna marry me?” part.

    If I walk into a jewelery store & buy an engagement ring, it doesn’t mean that I am now betrothed; & if I accept a proposal alongside a $15 ring from Claire’s, then voila! Claire’s sells engagement rings.

  19. Drinker Nisti says:

    You can always buy a non-diamond ring and call it an engagement ring. I have a sapphire e-ring which I’m quite happy with. My 1 carat sapphire is actually a much rarer stone than a 1 carat diamond, but it’s a fraction of the cost…

    A few jewlers gave us crap about the non-diamond. We did not buy anything from them. We went downtown to the Los Angeles jewelry district. Found a wholesaler with lots of loose sapphires, and picked out a stone. Very easy once you know what you want. (The wholesalers won’t hold your hand through the process.)

  20. Falconfire, there are a ton of sites & retailers out there who sell non-diamond engagement rings. Google antique, estate, vintage or retro engagement rings to find incredible rings with rubies, emeralds, aquamarines, etc.

    A lot of us ladies these days are anti-blood-rocks, or at least anti-mall-chain-store-rings. I know I’d rather wear something I’m not going to see everyone else wearing.

    Speaking of which, several years ago my dad, who apparently has never met me, bought me one of those awful Zales diamond heart pendants, perpetually on sale & advertised as something she can’t live without. Selling it cheap. Never worn. Someone else can’t live without it.

  21. konstantConsumer says:

    can’t you just buy any colored stone ring. i know my dad got my mom an emerald, and i don’t think it’s an “engagement emerald.”

  22. greghard says:

    There is no trademark infringement here. There is no libel here (opinions, not facts; no malicious intent). Also, Zales would have to prove the claims are false. I doubt they can.

    I’d have a lawyer send them a nice, legally accurate response, if you can afford it.

  23. ncognito_13 says:

    @Falconfire: Any custom jeweler will be happy to make any ring that you desire with any stone or stones. Forget about the mall chain stores. The people that work in those stores no little if anything about the products they sell. They get very little training..I know I have been in the diamond business for 30 years. They are more concerned about selling you an extended warranty which is total profit than they are in selling you a quality piece of jewelry. Any custom jeweler will be thrilled to work with you to make anything that you can dream up.