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MILLERKING, LLC Vs. DONOTPAY, INC. - (17 Nov 2023)

To maintain suit under Article III of US Constitution, it has to be established that sufficient injury in commercial terms has been caused to complainant

Constitution

This case pits real lawyers against a robot lawyer. Defendant DoNotPay, Inc. (“DNP”), is an online subscription service that touts its robot lawyer’s ability to allow consumers to fight corporations, beat bureaucracy and sue anyone at the press of a button.” But, DNP and its robot lawyer are not actually licensed to practice law. So, Plaintiff-MillerKing, Inc. (“MK”), a small Chicago law firm that claims to be a direct competitor of DNP, has sued DNP for false association and false advertising under the Lanham Act and Illinois state law.

DNP challenged MK suit before federal court under Article III of US Constitution on ground that MK has not adequately alleged any injury and, thus, its complaint must be dismissed for lack of standing.

MK alleges that it is a direct competitor of DNP and that DNP made numerous representations that create the false impression that DNP is affiliated with licensed attorneys and that State bar authorities approve of or sponsor DNP’s services. MK also alleges that it and the class has been or is likely to be injured, either by direct diversion of clients from themselves to DNP or by a lessening of the goodwill associated with their goods and services.

The Court observed that MK allegations are insufficient to establish Article III standing. As argued by DNP, MK has not alleged any lost revenue or added expenditures as a result of DNP’s conduct. Nor has it alleged that any client or prospective client has withheld business, has considered withholding business, or has even heard of DNP. MK also has not presented facts to support its claim that DNP has hurt its reputation or lessened its goodwill. While the complaint asserts that DNP has provided poor customer service at times, leading to adverse legal consequences for DNP’s customers, the complaint fails to cite any instance where DNP’s failures were imputed to MK specifically or lawyers generally.

MK is a law firm employing real, licensed attorneys who appear in court before judges, represent clients, make legal arguments, and sign legal documents. MK claims to advertise its services online, but it does not provide those services online. DNP is a web-based company purporting to use AI to provide legal services virtually. In other words, while the parties participate in similar industries, they are not selling identical products. Therefore, MK’s argument that the parties are “direct competitors” fails, and the Court will not presume a commercial injury for purposes of Article III standing.

MK has not plausibly alleged that it has suffered a diversion of clients or reputational harm as a result of DNP’s actions. Thus, it lacks Article III standing to pursue its Lanham Act claims. Accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant DNP is GRANTED and the Complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice.

Tags : ROBOT LAWYER   REAL LAWYER   DONOTPAY INC.   MILLERKING   INC  

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