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Highfields Capital Management v John Doe

Highfields field suit in federal court in Massachusetts against a poster on a Yahoo! bulletin board for Silicon Graphics, Inc., using the pseudonym “Highfields Capital.” Highfields, which is SGI’s biggest investor, alleged that the use of its name in the pseudonym infringed its mark, and constituted commercial disparagement in violation of both state and federal law. After Highfields subpoenaed Yahoo! for information about Doe (and others), Doe moved to quash in the Northern District of California. Following the rulings in Dendrite v Doe and Columbia Ins. Co. v. Seescandy.com, Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil recommended that the subpoena be quashed because plaintiff had not submitted evidentiary support for its claims, and District Judge Maxine Chesney adopted his recommendation. The principal opinion reasons that the interest in speaking anonymously requires more than the mere pleading of a cause of action: “It is not enough for a plaintiff to plead and pray. Allegation and speculation are insufficient. . . . This court may not enforce the subpoena if, under plaintiff’s showing, any essential fact or finding lack requisite evidentiary support.”

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