California IP Lawsuit Over Twitter Ownership Can Proceed

Phone Dog Media’s trade secret lawsuit against its former employee for allegedly pilfering its Twitter followers can proceed to trial, according to a California judge. As the case may well decide who owns an employee’s social media account, it is being closely watched by both the business and legal communities.

In this case, Phone Dog Media filed the lawsuit against its former website writer Noah Kravitz after he left the company in October 2010. The dispute centers on his Twitter name “Phonedog_Noah” (tied to his personal email) and its 17,000 followers, which he took with him when he left.

Phone Dog contends that it is the rightful owner of the Twitter account, characterizing it as a proprietary customer list. The company is seeking damages of $340,000, which amounts to $2.50 a month for every follower for the eight months Kravitz used the Twitter handle.

Earlier this month, San Francisco U.S. Magistrate Maria-Elena James ruled that Phone Dog’s lawsuit could go forward, finding that the alleged harm “between Phone Dog and its current and prospective advertisers” was sufficient for the lawsuit to proceed.

Because social media ownership is such a novel issue, the court’s decision promises to have broad legal ramifications. I continue to keep you updated on the case.

How Can I Help?

If your company is concerned about your employees’ use of social media and the potential impact it may have on your valuable trade secrets, contact me today by phone or email.

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