OptInRealBig’s TRO Against SpamCop Dissolved

A temporary restraining order (TRO) granted Monday against SpamCop in mass emailer OptInRealBig’s lawsuit against the anti-spam service has been dissolved and an expedited hearing has been scheduled on the issue.

Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday dissolved the TRO she had issued against SpamCop, whose parent company is IronPort, just the day before. She also scheduled an expedited hearing for May 18.

The order would have blocked SpamCop from sending complaints about mass mailer OptInRealBig to ISPs other than its own. SpamCop also would have been barred from stripping the complainers’ email addresses from complaints about OptIn. The order never went into effect.

In the order dissolving the TRO, Judge Armstrong said, “The legal issues are more complicated than they originally appeared and the Court has a number of questions regarding the facts.” For this reason, the TRO was dissolved and an expedited hearing set for May 18 in which both parties can set forth their arguments regarding the restraint.

OptIn filed a motion for a TRO May 4. IronPort’s opposition to the motion was received late May 10, after the judge issued the order. The judge dissolved the order after reading IronPort’s papers, according to IronPort’s lead attorney, Darryl Woo of San Francisco’s Fenwick & West. Attorneys for OptInRealBig did not return calls by press time.

“We’re confident we’re moving in the right direction,” said an IronPort spokeswoman.

OptInRealBig filed suit in April against SpamCop and parent IronPort, alleging that SpamCop interfered with OptInRealBig’s contracts and business relationships, defamed the company and damaged potential future earnings. The complaint also sought a TRO, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction blocking SpamCop from making slanderous or libelous statements about it and a minimum of $150,000 in damages.

As part of its spam-reporting services, SpamCop notifies ISPs’ abuse desks of email that has been submitted by users as spam. Every ISP tracked in the reported spam’s headers is notified, with the email addresses of complaining users withheld. OptInRealBig’s TRO would have restrained SpamCop from withholding the email addresses of users who complained about OptIn’s emails and from forwarding complaints about OptIn to any ISPs except OptInRealBig’s own ISP.

SpamCop, formerly a one-man operation, was acquired by IronPort Systems in November 2003, making it a much more attractive lawsuit target.

Scott Richter, OptInRealBig’s president, is himself the subject of an anti-spam lawsuit jointly filed in December by New York’s Attorney General and Microsoft.

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