COMC claims Beckett Media wanted to buy the company last December and when it didn’t get the price it wanted, unlawfully terminated its partnership agreement. So say lawyers for COMC, who filed a counterclaim against Beckett’s lawsuit last week as legal jousting began in a case between two hobby heavyweights.
In a lawsuit filed late last month, Beckett claimed COMC used its access to Beckett computer systems to acquire Beckett’s entire database and stole ‘trade secrets’.
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court, COMC denies those claims and says Beckett is trying to cause the company financial hardship.
Based in Redmond, Washington, COMC claims that since its launch in 2007, it has grown to become the second largest seller of sports cards, behind only eBay, but says Beckett, which also offers consignment services, is trying to disrupt its business.
The two sides had been partners for the past several years, with Beckett supplying pricing data for use by COMC’s customers who can submit trading cards for sale on its website. The two even worked together to create the computer program used to acquire Beckett data. Beckett’s price guide information was made available as a reference for users but Beckett cut COMC off last year after charging COMC had gained access to proprietary information it wasn’t supposed to have through the process of scanning Beckett’s computers.
In its claim, however, COMC denies that in the summer of 2013 it used an API to scrape data from Beckett.com. COMC says it has only had access to Beckett Media's publicly-available pricing data. COMC claims it has never had access to any of Beckett Media's alleged "secret" information. The company says "scraping" is a simple method to obtain the information that is publically available on the website and nothing more.
COMC says Beckett wanted COMC to start forcing its customers to pay to see the Beckett pricing data instead of offering it for free. COMC agreed, provided Beckett permitted use of an API to help ensure that the pricing data on COMC's website was up to date. COMC says the he Online Price Guide Agreement allowed COMC to sell Beckett Media subscriptions to COMC customers.
COMC claims Greg Lindberg of Beckett Media called COMC President Tim Getsch late last year and told him he wanted to buy COMC but lawyers say after hearing the price, Lindberg immediately stated that COMC was in breach of the Data License Agreement and, therefore, he was terminating it immediately.
According to the counterclaim, Lindberg followed up with a letter purporting to end the contract but COMC reps say they never got a good reason and responded that immediate termination violated the terms of the contract, which required 30 days notice and a show of good cause.
Without access to Beckett data, COMC has been forced to put ten members of its staff to work creating its own catalog of cards and pricing information based on past sales. It also solicited its own users to submit information to assist with the project, which Getsch says is still going on. While the work has caused grief for COMC, it claims Beckett’s data wasn’t that vital to its success.
“COMC enjoyed sales at a record-setting pace after removing Beckett Media's presented book values from its website more than a year ago,” the counterclaim states. “Based on information and belief, most buyers did not rely upon the Beckett Media presented book value.”
Nevertheless, COMC says it purged all Beckett data from its system as of April 1 and has faced hardships after the sudden end to its relationship with the Texas-based Beckett.
Attorneys for the company are requesting a jury trial and are asking for dismissal of Beckett’s claims, monetary damages from Beckett Media’s “abuse of process and breaches of contract”, attorneys’ fees and “additional and different relief as the Court deems just and equitable.”