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Cvent, Inc. filed an intellectual property law suit against EventBrite, alleging multiple unfair business practices claims, including: (1) violation of Virginia’s business conspiracy statute; (2) copyright infringement and violating the Lanham Act governing trademarks; (3) violation of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Virginia Computer Crimes Act; and (4) violation of Virginia’s common law claims of business conspiracy, unjust enrichment and breach of contract. Click here for the complaint and here for the motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

The facts described below are derived from the allegations in Cvent’s initial pleadings. Cvent and EventBright are competitor websites that help event coordinators plan events in numerous cities. Cvent invested substantial resources in developing its website and the information contained therein to develop a competitive advantage. Cvent’s website “includes detailed information about [meeting venues around the world], such as the availability and capacity of meeting rooms, venue amenities and services . . . .”
According to Cvent’s allegations, EventBrite and several “John Doe” defendants conspired to use “robot” programs that “allow automatic, systematic download and copying of websites.” Those robot programs retrieved and copied data from “4,890 pages of Cvent’s site.” EventBrite then used many of those pages on its website in violation of copyright and trademark laws to the financial detriment of Cvent.
Cvent’s breach of contract claim is based on the Terms of Use set forth on its website. The court will be faced with myriad questions about the enforcement of those terms and how, if at all, those terms shape Cvent’s tort based claims. For instance, the Virginia Supreme Court has established that a breach of contract alone cannot be the basis of a statutory business conspiracy claim. More here is alleged, but the court will need to sort through the claims. It is also interesting to note that Cvent did not claim a violation of Virginia’s trade secrets act, but quotes its Terms of Use that preclude someone from disclosing to anyone Cvent’s trade secrets. Of course, information displayed on a website is likely not secret.
Cvent’s allegations, regardless of whether they are true, is a good reminder of how easy it can be for businesses to steal from their competitors over the internet. Companies need to ensure that they protect themselves from this behavior from both a technological and legal standpoint. Having a robust Terms of Use is a minimal requirement. Companies should discuss their particular concerns with counsel familiar with these issues.