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Auto Dealer Sues Internet Critic

January 25, 2000

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ One of the nation’s largest auto dealerships is suing the creator of two Web sites that carried consumer complaints filed against the company.

Robert F. Dalton is facing a federal lawsuit accusing him of illegally using the trademarked name of Fred Ricart’s dealership in the Internet addresses _ ricartauto.com and ricartautoripoffs.com.

``My guy has a right to complain about the way he was treated and to let people know about it,″ Eric E. Willison, Dalton’s attorney, said Monday. ``Basically, it was a gripe site. They are all over the Internet.″

Willison denied the lawsuit’s claim that his client attempted to extort $175,000 from the company when attorneys for the dealership complained to Dalton about the sites.

The lawsuit also contends the sites were full of disparaging remarks and sought damages of $100,000 and a restraining order to keep Dalton, an Ohio State University graduate student, from using the Ricart name.

Dalton agreed last week to remove the Ricart name from his Web addresses until the dispute is resolved in court. A trial date has not been set, Judge George Smith’s office said.

Dalton leased a Ford from Ricart and got into a dispute over the terms of the warranty, Willison said. After filing a consumer complaint with Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, Dalton created the sites, which list details of consumer complaints filed against the dealership with the attorney general’s office, Willison said.

Ricart Automotive’s trademark attorney Jim Eley said the company is just protecting its name and business.

``This whole action is in a continuing effort by Fred Ricart and Ricart Automotive to enforce its valuable and famous trademarks against those who would infringe and unfairly compete with Ricart Automotive,″ Eley said.

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