Trademarks Copyrights and Trade Secrets

Data Scraping Startup Sued by United Airlines and Orbitz

  |   Monday, February 02, 2015

In a six-count civil complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, United Airlines Inc. and Orbitz Worldwide LLC challenged the legality of a data scraping startup based in New York City.  Greatly simplified, “ data scraping” is an industry term for capturing and republishing snippets of third party web content.  A “scraping bot” is a computer software program that accesses a third party website and requests information, according to pre-programmed rules (known as an “algorithm”). United Airlines and Orbitz named web programmer Aktarer Zaman as a defendant to the lawsuit, in addition to his website known as skiplagged.com.  The complaint alleges that the defendants capture and analyze flight information from official airline websites, and identify cost-saving opportunities based on that data.  The complaint further alleges that defendants’ conduct violates airline policies against so-called “hidden city” ticketing. 

United Airlines and Orbitz have asserted claims for violations of the Lanham Act and for breach of Zaman’s affiliate contract with United Airlines.  The complaint also alleges that the parties exchanged cease-and-desist letters prior to the complaint, and that Zaman had signed an agreement with Orbitz that indicated skiplagged.com would cease operating.  While the complaint accuses defendants of profiting from the plaintiffs’ commercially valuable information concerning flight availabilities, the plaintiffs have not invoked copyright or computer hacking laws. In recent cases, plaintiffs seeking redress for data scraping have typically included such claims, often based upon violations of the applicable terms of use. 

On January 13, 2015, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that his activity was not directed toward Illinois, including his involvement in the alleged agreement to cease operating.  The case is docketed as 1:14-cv-09214 before the Honorable Judge Charles P. Kocoras.

Kronenberger Rosenfeld, LLP represents a number of companies that rely on cutting-edge solutions to navigate the legal pitfalls of online scraping.  Our clients rely on us for compliance monitoring, drafting disclaimer updates, evaluating potential cases regarding computer hacking and intellectual property laws, and litigating claims for scraping in federal court.  If you have questions, please submit your inquiry through our case submission form and we will gladly respond to you.  

This entry was posted on Monday, February 02, 2015 and is filed under Trademarks Copyrights and Trade Secrets, Internet Law News.




Karl S. Kronenberger
Partner




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