Originally created 10/10/96

Company's threat pulls plug on former employee's Web page



INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Jeff Blackmon was unhappy when he quit his job as a computer technician at Gateway 2000, and he wanted the world to know it.

But when the South Dakota-based computer company found Blackmon's "Gateway 2000 Sucks" page on the Internet's World Wide Web, the company was not thrilled.

Blackmon finally took down the page Monday after Gateway won a temporary restraining order from a judge who agreed Blackmon's use of Gateway's logo and Holstein cow patterns were trademark infringements.

Blackmon, 25, quit Gateway in January and put up the page shortly thereafter.

Now, the two sides have a deal: Blackmon has agreed to stop spreading his anti-Gateway message, and Gateway won't seek hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

"I was just praying that I wouldn't lose my house over all this," said Blackmon, who lives in Independence.

The agreement, entered as an order by U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Stevens, prohibits Blackmon from using Gateway 2000's corporate trademarks in any page heading, subheadings or titles. But it doesn't keep him from referring to the company in the text of a web site.

Originally, Blackmon's page included his "Top Ten Reasons Not to Buy a Gateway 2000 Computer." The page drew plenty of visits from Web surfers and plenty of electronic mail, so Blackmon expanded the page.

The updated version included Blackmon's resignation letter to Gateway co-founder Ted Waitt, his "How to Outsmart Tech Support" list, a "Gateway 2000 Sucks Message Board," and Waitt's confidential e-mail address.

Gateway issued a formal statement, which read in part: "In Gateway's view, Mr. Blackmon is and will always be free to express his honestly held opinions about Gateway and its products."

Gateway also said it would look into Blackmon's complaints.