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April 06, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have Smarter Big-Box Stores? (Wal-Mart "Always Low Prices" Department)

Think Progress reports that Wal-Mart is on the attack:

Think Progress: Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott says he is sick and tired of being a “punching bag” for reactionaries who don’t understand the free market:

The thing is, innovation and competition tend to change the status quo. We were a small store once, too. We were able to innovate and use the economies of scale and volume buying to deliver the value our customers needed and wanted. If it weren’t Wal-Mart, it would have been someone else. I can assure you that people who live paycheck to paycheck are thrilled when we come to town.

And the first thing it does on the attack is to try to shut down one of its defenders--economics graduate student Kevin Brancato's "Always Low Prices" weblog:

Kevin Brancato: After a year of my blogging about Wal-Mart on ALP, Wal-Mart has had enough. WM has sent its attorneys after me -- to stop me from using their slogan "Always Low Prices", and to scoot me off the alwayslowprices.net domain.

Let me be clear at the outset; there is no scandal here. I am not outraged. This is about business and control of property -- not persecution. Unlike GM, WM did NOT send a goon squad. And though I find many of Wal-Mart's claims spurious, I am not a lawyer, and I will have to consult with my own lawyers before proceeding formally. And though they will tell me to not discuss the matter any further, I think transparency is more important than most lawyers do.

I promise to fight to keep the alwayslowprices.net domain and Always Low Prices name. And I want the blogosphere's help and advice on how to proceed....

What is the claim?

The claim is that I am in voliation of the Lanham Act -- §1125(a), §1125(d), and §1114. Basically that I pretend to be allied to Wal-Mart, and that I use Google Ads to profit off of Wal-Mart's trademark.

I am sympathetic to Wal-Mart's desire to control its private property, but my use of this domain has in no way taken business away from them. Indeed, as one of Wal-Mart's most ardent defenders, taking this domain away from me is likely to hurt Wal-Mart in the short and long run. Who else regularly faces off against Wal-Mart's opponents, union sympathizers, and the like on the internet?...

Posted by DeLong at April 6, 2005 07:20 PM