Latest round in Aviva-bashing case goes to agent

Court rules in favor of agent who maintained sites critical of insurer

Nov 28, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

By Darla Mercado

An agent has notched a victory in court against Aviva USA Corp. after complaining about the carrier on the Internet. But the two parties are still sparring over legal fees and awards.

Aviva USA and Aviva Brands Ltd. filed suit in February 2011 in the U.S. District Court in Arizona, alleging that Anil Vazirani — who once had a selling agreement with the carrier — infringed on Aviva's trademark and trade dress rights by using its logo on websites criticizing the insurer.

The sites were, and; all three are now inactive.

The sites drew attention to a dispute Mr. Vazirani had been having with the insurer going back to 2008, when Aviva terminated his contract. The sites purported to “warn about the business practices of some of Aviva's top U.S. executives,” according to a screen shot. Mr. Vazirani asserted that executives at the company sought to steer business away from him toward a competing marketing organization.

Aviva pursued Mr. Vazirani in federal court for what it deemed wrongful use of its intellectual property. The broker responded with a counterclaim, denying that he had infringed on Aviva's trade dress rights or committed federal cyberpiracy.

On Oct. 2, the court ruled in favor of Mr. Vazirani and against Aviva, noting that the plaintiffs and counterclaimants will “take nothing,” and dismissing the complaint.

Nevertheless, their battle continues — now over who gets paid. Aviva argued that earlier this year the court had granted it a $126,169 award against Mr. Vazirani and other defendants for bad faith spoliation of evidence. The final judgment omits this so-called sanctions award, the insurer argued.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vazirani is seeking an award of attorneys' fees of about $750,000, or $625,000 when the $126,169 sanctions award is subtracted.

David Bray, the broker's lawyer, will file a memorandum in support of paying the attorneys fees as early as this Thursday. “We've requested an oral argument,” Mr. Bray said. “We anticipate winning a majority of the fees.”

“It's good to have this be a leading case regarding free speech rights on the Internet,” he added.

Aviva expects to appeal this and a similar decision in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County, according to Kevin Waetke, the company's spokesman. The latter case, in which Aviva and a slate of plaintiffs pursued Mr. Vazirani over “unsolicited commercial” e-mails that contained links to, also went in favor of the broker, as the court granted his motion for summary adjudication.

“Our position against Mr. Vazirani and the other defendants is simple,” Mr. Waetke said. “We maintain ownership of Aviva's logo and branding elements. Third parties should have no legal right to misuse our trademarked material to pursue their own commercial agenda.”


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Featured video


The #MeToo movement and the financial advice industry

Attendees at the Women to Watch luncheon commend the #MeToo movement for raising awareness about the issue of sexual harassment and bringing women together.

Latest news & opinion

What the next market downturn means for small RIAs

Firms that have enjoyed AUM growth because of the runup in stocks may find it hard to adjust to declining revenues if the market suffers a major correction.

DOL fiduciary rule likely to live on despite appeals court loss

Future developments will hinge on whether the Labor Department continues the fight to remake the regulation its own way.

DOL fiduciary rule: Industry reacts to Fifth Circuit ruling

Groups on both sides of the fiduciary debate had plenty to say.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacates DOL fiduciary rule

In split decision, judges say agency exceeded authority.

UBS, after dumping the broker protocol, continues to see brokers come and go

The wirehouse has seen 14 individuals or teams leave and five join for a net loss of $2.4 billion in AUM


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print