A California federal judge partially dismissed a complaint that LegalZoom.com engages in the unauthorized practice of law, false advertising, and unfair competition.
LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C., of Mountain View, Calif., claimed in its complaint that it is “the largest law firm filer of trademarks” in the U.S.
LegalForce sought a court order enjoining LegalZoom from preparing and filing trademark applications at the Patent and Trademark Office. The complaint added the PTO and various state bars as defendants for failing to enforce rules governing the legal profession by allowing LegalZoom to provide those services.
Judge Maxine M. Chesney of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the portion of complaint related to LegalForce Inc., a technology firm associated with LegalForce RAPC.
LegalForce Inc. failed to identify that it has “suffered an injury in fact” to establish a controversy between it and LegalZoom, Chesney said. LegalForce’s charges under federal law for alleged false or misleading statements in advertising, contained “no factual allegations to support a finding that LegalZoom’s advertising has had any effect on LegalForce’s commercial interests or its reputation,” she said.
Chesney dismissed California state charges for effectively the same reason—LegalForce’s failure to identify exactly how it is being harmed.
The case will continue on several fronts, though.
Chesney gave LegalForce Inc. the opportunity to amend its pleadings and refile. In a separate order, Chesney granted LegalZoom’s request to move its dispute with LegalForce RAPC—the law firm—to arbitration.
Chesney did not dismiss LegalForce’s causes of action asking for a declaration that the PTO’s standard of practice should prevent LegalZoom from operating its trademark-related businesses.
LegalForce was represented by corporate counsel. Cooley LLP, San Diego, represented LegalZoom, which is based in Glendale, Calif.
The case is LegalForce RAPC Worldwide, P.C. v. LegalZoom.com, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 17-cv-07194-MMC, 4/10/18.
(Corrects story to reflect that case is ongoing)