About the author: Micah Fincher is an associate at Jones Walker inn the firm’s Intellectual Property (IP) section within the Business & Commercial Litigation Practice Group. Fincher is a contributor to the recently launched Trade Secret Insider, which chronicles legal insights on trade secrets, non-competes, computer fraud and confidential data theft. This article was originally posted on tradesecretsinsider.com.
Are published baseball card prices protectible as trade secrets? That’s one question raised in alawsuit recently filed in Seattle, Washington. Beckett Media, LLC, a publisher of pricing and other information on collectibles and specialty products, sued Check Out My, LLC, the owner of COMC.com, which offers consignment services for collectible cards and other memorabilia.
Before the lawsuit, COMC had licensed Beckett Media’s pricing data, which helped buyers and sellers on COMC.com to price and trade collectibles, according to Beckett Media’s complaint. COMC allegedly “scraped” pricing data from Beckett Media’s website, but Beckett Media fails to describe the measures taken to maintain the secrecy of this allegedly trade secret information. Beckett Media also claims rights to a “proprietary pricing process.”
In December 2013 Beckett Media notified COMC that it was terminating its license, and COMC represented that it would create its own pricing database, according to the complaint. Beckett Media’s claim—under Washington’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act—seeks to prevent COMC from using its alleged trade secret information when creating its own database.
COMC’s answer presents a different story. COMC claims that it only used information that was publicly available from Beckett Media’s website, Beckett.com, and that Beckett Media breached its license to use that data when it terminated COMC’s access without good cause. COMC suggests in its answer that the true reason Beckett Media terminated the license was because COMC would not sell itself to Beckett Media for a price that it was willing to pay. COMC denies that it had access to Beckett Media’s “pricing process” and represents that it has deleted the data it previously licensed from Beckett Media.
It will be interesting to see whether the court confers trade secret protection on Beckett Media’s price data, despite its apparent public availability. Beckett Media may have better luck protecting its “proprietary pricing process,” but it is unclear whether COMC ever had access to that information.