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Lawyers sued for impersonating rival firm online to steal clients
Complaint accuses group of setting up fake site, hotline
An Illinois law firm is suing a rival it says was impersonating it online in a bid to steal clients.
Motta & Motta LLC said in a filing [PDF] to the Northern Illinois US District Court that rival legal firm Dolci and Weiland had set up both a website and phone line designed to redirect Mota’s criminal and family law clients to Dolci.
According to the complaint, Motta believes Dolci crafted a lookalike site designed to mirror its own website, then SEO-optimized that page to show up ahead of Motta’s own website in order to trick people in the Chicago area who were looking for an attorney.
The complaint alleges that, in 2016, Dolci was looking to expand its business from misdemeanors and DUIs into the family law and more serious criminal cases that Motta specialized in. To do this, Motta believes the rival firm tried to effectively steal its online identity.
Motta says the Dolci pages recreated not only the look and feel of Motta’s site, but also wholesale copied articles Motta’s attorneys had written for law journals years prior. It accuses Dolci of, at one point, compromising the Motta website and redirecting incoming traffic to its own lookalike page.
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“On or before May 11, 2016, Dolci executed the final step in its scheme and caused Motta’s website to be compromised and tags placed thereupon in order to hijack Motta’s web traffic and direct same to Dolci’s website while simultaneously assuming Motta’s online reputation,” the complaint reads.
“Dolci specifically set out to accomplish same in a manner least vulnerable to detection i.e. utilized tags as opposed to 301 redirects.”
As a result, Motta claims, Dolci saw its own traffic surge while Motta’s slowed to a trickle and the firm saw an “unmistakable and shocking decrease” in calls from potential new clients. What’s more, Motta alleges that its phone lines were also compromised by an employee, who turned traitor and referred potential clients to Dolci’s phone lines instead.
As a result, Motta alleges it lost about $2m worth of potential business to Dolci between 2016 and 2018.
The complaint alleges one count each of civil conspiracy, violation of the DMCA, unfair competition, and tortious interference. Motta is seeking an injunction to give it control of the Dolci website in question and a jury trial to determine damages. ®