Lawsuit – Are Twitter Followers a Protectable Customer List?

26 December 2011 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Author(s): Peter Vogel sued a former employee for theft of their customer list when his 17,000 Twitter followers went to his new Twitter name after he quit. The New York Times reported that Noah Kravitz was a writer for which "is a highly interactive mobile news and reviews resource that attracts a community of more than 2.5 million unique visitors each month." Until Kravitz quit in October 2010 he had 17,000 Twitter followers for his Twitter name Phonedog_Noah, and when he left Phonedog agreed to let Kravitz keep the Twitter name in exchange for his agreement that he would post Tweets for Phonedog from time to time.

Kravitz change his Twitter name to NoahKravitz and the 17,000 followers went with him. 8 months later sued Kravitz “saying the Twitter list was a customer list, and seeking damages of $2.50 a month per follower for eight months, for a total of $340,000.”

How can claim that followers of Twitter is a customer list which can be protected under trade secret laws? In order to be a trade secret in the US a company must be able to prove that the secret gives a company a particular business advantage and the owner has properly protected the trade secret.

Here is asserting that Twitter followers are customer list (a trade secret), however the details about Twitter followers identity are stored on Twitter. Twitter’s Terms of Service do not obligate Twitter to keep any information secret. As a matter of fact, if you search the Twitter Terms of Service the word “secret” is nowhere to be found.

This will be an interesting case to watch, but since 95% of all lawsuits settle without trial it is most likely the parties will settle the dispute and the Courts will not rule on this novel trade secret claim.

How could the facts in this lawsuit affect you and your Social Media activity?

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.


Related Services