Angie’s List, the crowd-sourced business review website, is suing Amazon Local, a subsidiary of the internet megastore Amazon, over allegations it misappropriated trade secrets. The federal lawsuit was filed based on accusations Amazon Local executives and employees were signing up as members on Angie’s List and downloading provider profiles and member reviews. Allegedly, the information was then used to set up a competing service to Angie’s List.
The lawsuit accuses Amazon Local of soliciting business from top ranking members of Angie’s List. According to the lawsuit, Amazon Local handpicked the top-rated companies listed on Angie’s List, and then sent messages to the accounts persuading them to join its business. Some of the cases mentioned in the lawsuit accuse Amazon Local employees of sending messages to Angie’s List subscribers while using Amazon in their usernames.
The lawsuit accuses Amazon Local of misappropriating trade secrets, theft, civil conspiracy, computer trespass and violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Angie’s List requires a subscription and accepting a terms of service agreement that prohibits the use of member information for commercial purposes. Member details are considered proprietary information, and if the details of the lawsuit are true, it is possible that Amazon Local could be held liable for damages.
Several weeks ago, we wrote a blog post about Coca-Cola’s famous trade secret, its secret ingredient. That secret ingredient is what separates Classic Coke from numerous other knockoffs. If a competing business stole Coca-Cola’s secret ingredient, it would enjoy the same success as Classic Coke. The same argument can be applied to the case we are writing about today.
An Angie’s List spokesperson spoke briefly on the lawsuit against Amazon Local, saying its company has spent 20 years developing its database of businesses and member accounts. Another company taking that proprietary information and using it to develop a competing business would be stealing information that has made Angie’s List a successful website.
By contacting an experienced business lawyer, companies can protect trade secrets that are vital to maintaining an edge in a competitive marketplace.
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