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Susan Hollander really digs her clients, the two twenty-something founders of the people-rating site www.hotornot.com. “They’re fun, they’re smart, and they have great intellectual property,” said Hollander, a Manatt, Phelps & Phillips partner in Palo Alto. “They’re so funny and so creative.” Hollander would make a great pitchwoman for James Hong and Jim Young, the computer programmers who created www.hotornot.com. Instead, she’s their lawyer. HotorNot enables Web surfers to rate the attractiveness of people gutsy enough to post their pictures on the site and expose themselves to mass scrutiny. In addition to being a unique pastime, the site doubles as a personals service and users can access contact information for people in the photos. But instead of pitching to potential mates, Hollander will have to settle on making a case for her clients in court should it come to that. She’s working on a dispute between Hong and Young and the producer of ABC’s Thursday night television program “Are You Hot?” According to Hollander, the program, which lets a studio audience and panel of judges rate the attractiveness of contestants, uses the phrase “hot or not,” which her client has trademarked. She said the show flashes the words hot or not on screen and uses the phrase during a dialogue section. She penned a letter to the show’s producers last month, and the two sides are negotiating, Hollander said. She declined to say what was on the negotiation table. She did say, however, the two entrepreneurs were not seeking an appearance on the show — though she acknowledges it is an enticing idea. Hollander had made similar moves to protect the trademark in the past, sending cease-and-desist letters to other Web site copycats that began to use “hot or not.” Hollander’s clients have company in their beef with ABC. Radio personality Howard Stern filed a suit last week complaining the show makes use of one of his concepts. For Hollander, who has perused her clients’ Web site and watched two episodes of “Are You Hot?” — for research purposes only, she says — the work she’s doing for www.hotornot.com is boilerplate trademark protection work. And Hollander’s admiration for her clients and their creation hasn’t made her willing to put herself on the Web for a rating. “I’m actually not in the market,” Hollander said. “Were I in the market, I’d be on it.”

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