updated 4/5/2005 12:38:32 AM ET 2005-04-05T04:38:32

A man can disparage a hair-restoration company on a Web site using the company’s name without violating copyright law, an appeals court ruled Monday.

Bosley Medical Institute in Seattle sued former client Michael Kremer after he created a Web site in 2000 in a “bald-faced effort to get even” with the company, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Kremer, who had been unhappy with the outcome of his hair restoration, used the company’s name in the Web site address, www.bosleymedical.com. The company claimed his use of the name was trademark infringement.

But the appeals court disagreed, saying the Web site was not created to make a profit or to confuse Bosley’s customers and potential clients. There were no links on the site to other hair-restoration providers, the court noted.

Kremer’s attorney, Paul Levy, said the decision “is an important victory for free speech on the Internet. It makes clear that consumers can use a trade name for a company they want to criticize.”

The appeals court, however, reinstated part of the lawsuit in which Bosley alleged that Kremer is violating a so-called cybersquatting law by allegedly attempting to sell the site to Bosley in exchange for removing the disparaging material.

Bosley’s attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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