Wednesday, January 4, 2012

APA Threatens to Sue "dsm5watch" Website

I just read Bernard Carroll's interesting post on the Health Care Renewal Blog about the latest DSM-5 brouhaha. It appears that the American Psychiatric Association has sent a "cease and desist" letter to a website critical of the DSM-5. The site was called "dsm5watch," but the APA argues that using DSM-5 in the blog title is an infringement of their trademark. The owner of the blog, Suzy Chapman, having no funds to tussle with APA lawyers, simply changed the name of her site to dxrevisionwatch, which, she says, has resulted in much less traffic.

Is the APA simply protecting its ownership of a lucrative franchise, or is it engaging in something more insidious, what Dr. Carroll calls the "SLAPP maneuver," an acronym for "strategic lawsuit against public participation"? I'm guessing that APA would have had little problem with the site if it were cheerleading the DSM-5 process. It all seems rather heavy-handed to me. After all, the New York Times appears to have no problem with the anti-Times site called TimesWatch. In a democratic society, healthy dissent and debate is part of the package. It may be annoying, but that doesn't excuse the bullying tactics that the APA has chosen.


Anonymous said...

You mean an infringement of their trademark, not copyright.

Mickey Nardo said...

Such an arrogant maneuver. It's hard to imagine any gain for the APA or the American Psychiatric Publishers other than bad publicity at a time when they've already got a corner on that market. Dr. Carroll's title, SELF INFLICTED DAMAGE, was well chosen... said...

If they are not getting traffic, then they should change the keyword of their site having highest priority. Then it will automatically increase the traffic.

Suzy Chapman said...

Thank you, Dr Carlat, for picking up on this latest cock-up by APA. Yes, it is infringement of a registered trademark and violation of US Trademark Law that American Psychiatric Publishing's Licensing and Permissions department is claiming; specifically, the use of the "DSM 5 mark" within my domain name.

EFF is a grassroots legal advocacy non profit group that has very useful legal guides on its site for blog and site owners and a section on the legitimate use of trademarks in domain names, blog names and post titles.

The advice given is that trademarks can be used, legitimately, if relevant to the subject of discussion, where there is no intent to confuse or mislead the public or imply endorsement of the site's content or that the site is affiliated to the holder of the mark, and where there is no commercial gain. Two court cases are cited that found non commercial and non-misleading use of trademarks in the URLs and domain names of critical websites to be "fair use".

My site carries content primarily of interest to a specific patient group and their advocacy organizations. When a draft of DSM-5 is imminent I provide information on how and by what means patients, patient groups and their professional advocates can participate in the stakeholder review process and publish commentary on updates to proposals that may have implications for this particular patient group - as many other advocates and groups are doing across the internet.

I'd run the site for two years with no problems. The purpose of the site is on the home page. I carry a clear disclaimer. The site is non commercial. It does not appear that APA would have a case - so why the heavy action, why now and who's next?

Unknown said...

It is an organization that historically has never conformed to any recognized medical standards, certainly not any Ethical standards. It seems to me that it is decision due to PANIC over a loss of control. Every time that I have calmly pointed out an ethical flaw in a professionals conduct---every one of them seemed to panic and decide to do something to demonstrate their personal authority; do something else unethical. I don't understand the rationale---

Sean said...

This is an intersting move. I am not sure how much debate can continue if you are not allowed to use a DSM-5 in a non-commerical way. The motive seems quite clear to me.

Joel Hassman, MD said...

First of all, I want to be honest with Dr Carlat, I am in a mean mood tonight after a social worker insulted me about the level of care I provide for a community mental health clinic I am about to leave, because, hey, changing meds is the answer to quick and effective mental health care, not sound and consistent psychotherapy like Dr Carlat and I were trained to provide. Nope, just be guidance counselors and if patients aren't better by Friday, then, write a new script, and, oh, do it yesterday.

Social Workers, gotta love what they have done for mental health care these past 15 years or so.

So, why does that above rant belong here, because it is pathetic enough that other professions in mental health care are doing the level of damage we are seeing in the field, but for our own colleagues to not only sell out with what is the agenda of DSM 5, but to then act like pure bullies in doing it, well, then they are just as pathetic and crude as those who are looking for short cuts as well.

Where are all the colleagues who took the oath I seem to remember saying at my medical school graduation? Is psychiatry just as selfish and insensitive as politicians, as profit motivated business people, as narcissistic and antisocial elements of society who have no other interest but their own? Is this what my profession has become?

Recently, someone I really appreciated listening to on the radio here in Baltimore died of pancreatic cancer, his name was Ron Smith, and I would offer readers to Google him and learn what he was about, especially when he learned of his diagnosis back in October. He and I emailed and spoke on the phone during his show throughout the past 8 or so year, and I would bet if he could read this now, he would probably say, "Joel, not outrageous enough!"

I hope you'll allow this to be part of the thread, because outrage and dissent has a place.

Happy New Year to all, enjoy it while you can!

Anonymous said...

When I have a mental health issue, I consult with a mental health professional. I pay for that doctor or therapist, because I know they are trained and experienced to treat the mental health concern I have.

So why is it that when a person has a legal issue, suddenly everyone feels comfortable playing armchair lawyer? If you have a legal issue, CONSULT A LAWYER. Ask for a real legal opinion from an expert, because you might be amazed that there is an actual legal response you can make.

Suzy Chapman said...

Thanks again, Dr Carlat, for your post on this issue.

On January 12, Allen Frances published a follow-up on his "DSM5 in Distress" blog, hosted at Psychology Today:

DSM 5 Censorship Fails
Support From Professionals and Patients Saves Free Speech

"Last week I described the plight of Suzy Chapman, a well respected UK patient advocate forced to change the domain name of her website by the heavy handed tactics of the publishing arm of the American Psychiatric Association. The spurious legal excuse was commercial protection of the 'DSM 5' trademark; the probable intent was to stifle one of the internet's best sources of DSM and ICD information. This bullying could not have come at a worse time - just as final decisions are being made on highly controversial DSM 5 proposals and with the third and final draft due for release this spring. This is precisely when a ragged and reckless DSM 5 can most benefit from the widest and most open discussion..."

Read follow-up blog here:

Suzy Chapman

Doug Bremner said...

APA actually has no legal grounds for their action and they know it. It is completely within the realm of fair use to use a name in a blog url that is for non-commercial purposes and can clearly be identified as commentary or satire, in the same way that "" or "" is.