Amazon’s defense is starting to take shape in a lawsuit filed by Angie’s List, which is accusing the Seattle-based retailer of using Angie’s List to help find contractors to build a competing home services business of its own.
In a new round of documents filed with the court, Amazon argues, in essence, that it is standard practice for companies to look at competitors’ websites. The company asserts that if Angie’s List did the same thing, it’s not wrong if Amazon does it, too. Angie’s List says Amazon is not justified in trying to get Angie’s List to cough up evidence of Angie’s List trolling Groupon and LivingSocial for leads, when the case isn’t about that at all.
“Amazon Local’s entire request is premised upon its ‘inten[t] to demonstrate’ that Angie’s List has done the same thing that Amazon Local is alleged to have done,” says the motion from Angie’s List.
Back in June, Angie’s List sued Amazon Local in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis alleging that Amazon stole proprietary information to establish a competing home services business. In the suit, Angie’s List named Amazon Local and 20 of its employees for purchasing memberships in order to identify highly sought after professionals. Using the service for commercial gain is in direct violation of the company’s terms of service, it says.
The two motions filed last week pertain to discovery in response to a preliminary injunction. Angie’s List is asking a judge to prohibit Amazon from continuing to use the information while the court case continues.
Amazon’s motion asks the judge to force Angie’s List into presenting documents detailing how it teaches its salespeople, relevant training materials and other communications based on seven search terms found in its Salesforce database. Although those terms are redacted from the paperwork, all of them are daily deal competitors, and exhibits hint that two of them are Groupon and LivingSocial.
“The Salesforce search for other competitors’ names is not relevant to whether an established industry standard guided and justified Amazon Local’s misappropriation and misuse of Angie’s List’s proprietary information,” Angie’s List writes in response.
Three months before the lawsuit was originally filed, Amazon launched Home Services, a major new category for the company. Similar to Angie’s List, Amazon Home Services allows consumers to search for providers, ranging from professionals who can install a new garbage disposal to someone who can hang a new light fixture.
In the 83-page lawsuit, Angie’s List provides multiple examples where Amazon employees signed up for accounts and then used them to search for hundreds of professionals in out-of-state locations over a very short period of time. In many cases, Angie’s List says, Amazon employees then used Angie’s List’s messaging system to solicit the professionals directly.
Angie’s List says, “Unlike Angie’s List’s Verified Complaint (which contains detailed allegations of known misconduct, including who, what, how, and why), Amazon Local has provided absolutely no evidence of its own allegation and has brought no complaint against Angie’s List. Nonetheless, it seeks to compel a broad search for several competitor names (terms for which not even Amazon Local itself is searching) – all without regard for whether such competitors have a membership agreement or other restrictions on their data like Defendants are accused of breaching in this case.”
Exactly why Angie’s List is suing Amazon’s Local Services division, which sells daily deal coupons, rather than the Home Services division, is not entirely clear. Based on documents filed with the court, it seems to be confused by that matter, too.
“Angie’s List cannot ascertain whether and to what degree Amazon Home Services is affiliated with Amazon Local, whether and to what degree Amazon Local has disclosed or distributed the information it illicitly obtained from Angie’s List to Amazon Home Services, and whether and to what degree Amazon Local has benefited, continues to benefit, and may benefit in the future from disclosing Angie’s List’s information to Amazon Home Services,” it writes.
In a response filed by Amazon, the company argues that the information it’s seeking is highly relevant and not difficult to provide: “Certainly, Angie’s List cannot argue at the preliminary injunction hearing that Amazon Local’s alleged interference was unjustified if it engaged in similar activity. Nor can it argue that Amazon Local’s competition was unfair if it used other Deal Providers’ websites for commercial purposes. The scope of Angie’s List’s activity is unquestionably relevant to Amazon Local’s defenses to Angie’s List’s claims overall and in particular in defense of a motion for equitable relief.”
Finally, Angie’s List states that it expects that any and all evidence it does provide “will establish that Angie’s List (unlike Amazon Local) does not have a pattern and practice of using competitors’ websites to cherrypick service providers to actively solicit and with which to work.”
Another document was filed on Friday, pertaining to the original motion to compel Angie’s List to provide the information. However, it has been sealed by the courts.