Gibson v. Texas Dep’t of Ins. – Div. of Workers’ Comp.
By Michael Hoven – Edited by Daniella Adler
Gibson v. Texas Dep’t of Ins. – Div. of Workers’ Comp., No. 11-11136 (5th Cir. Oct. 30, 2012)
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the Northern District of Texas, which had dismissed John Gibson’s claim that a Texas law barring him from using the words “Texas” and “workers’ compensation” or “workers’ comp.” in his domain name violated the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Fifth Circuit held that appellant had successfully stated a claim under the First Amendment, remanded the case for further review of that claim, and affirmed the dismissal of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. In so holding, the court did not decide whether appellant’s speech was commercial or noncommercial. Instead, the court found that his speech warranted First Amendment review even if commercial, and explicitly reserved appellant’s right to further develop the argument that his speech was “ordinary, communicative speech.” Gibson, No. 11-11136 at 7.
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog provides an overview of the case. JD Supra agrees with the decision and speculates that the Texas Department of Insurance is unlikely to win the case. Techdirt notes that this decision, which opens the door to giving domain names First Amendment protection, conflicts with the federal government’s history of seizing domain names.