Smashwords — Victory in Ohio

Smashwords, Inc.
Type of Engagement
Litigation - Defense
Subject Matter
Constitutional Law
Invasion of Privacy
Commercial Misappropriation
Southern District of Ohio

The Challenge

Defending Smashwords, Inc., the nation’s largest self-publishing platform, against a meritless intellectual property suit.

The Engagement

An Ohio couple sued Smashwords and several well-known booksellers for selling an e-book with their picture on the cover without obtaining their permission. The e-book in question was a self-published, erotic novel featuring football star Robert “Gronk” Gronkowski, and achieved notoriety when it was featured on National Public Radio and late-night shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live. Smashwords retained Stris & Maher to defend it in the suit.

The Result

An early summary judgment motion asserting constitutional and other defenses secured a swift and complete victory. The district court’s opinion is notable for establishing the distinction between distributors and publishers in the context of online booksellers. We represent Smashwords in a currently pending appeal before the Sixth Circuit.

“My first contact with Stris & Maher was in a case where my company was not a principal party, but I saw what they could do. Later, when I needed to hire a firm for a different matter, it was an easy decision. They are smart, efficient, and practical. And they win.” Mark Coker, Chief Executive Officer, Smashwords, Inc.
Key Case Materials

Our Sixth Circuit Brief (January 27, 2017)

Order Granting Summary Judgment for Our Client (March 15, 2016)

Our Reply (November 10, 2015)

Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Our Motion (September 29, 2015)

Our Motion for Summary Judgment (September 9, 2015)

Media Coverage

Amazon Defeats Lawsuit Over 'A Gronking To Remember' Book Cover (Forbes, March 18, 2016)

Amazon, B&N Not Liable In Erotic Book Cover Privacy Suit (Law360, March 16, 2016) (subscription required)