A Mount Pleasant website's Twitter account lawsuit against a former employee, which gained national headlines late last year, can proceed in its entirety, a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled.
Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James had dismissed two of the four counts alleged in PhoneDog's lawsuit in November but allowed the plaintiff website to amend its claims against Noah Kravitz.
PhoneDog beefed up its economic interference allegations against Kravitz, who left the company in October 2010 and now works for another consumer tech website in California, and on Monday, Judge James waved it through to the next stage of the litigation over Kravitz's arguments.
"The Court initially dismissed PhoneDog's claim because it failed to sufficiently allege which economic relationships were actually disrupted by Kravitz's alleged conduct," Judges James wrote in a four-page order. "To cure this deficiency, PhoneDog's [first amended complaint] clarified that it had economic relationships with (1) the approximately 17,000 followers of the Twitter account at issue; (2) its current and prospective advertisers; and (3) CNBC and Fox News, and that each of these economic relationships were actually disrupted by Kravitz's conduct."
The lawsuit, which appears to be the first of its kind, set the Internet abuzz over who owns work-related Twitter accounts — and how much they're worth. Its resolution could have far-reaching implications for businesses of several stripes.
PhoneDog, whose 25 employees and contractors publish reviews of mobile devices and services at PhoneDog.com, thinks the account in question — originally @PhoneDog_Noah, now @noahkravitz — belongs to the company, not Kravitz. In addition to the economic interference claims, it alleges misappropriation of trade secrets and conversion. PhoneDog wants Kravitz to hand over control of the account and pay damages of $340,000 for the eight months he tweeted to the account's roughly 17,000 followers after he resigned from PhoneDog.
Kravitz, who now lives in Oakland and writes for TechnoBuffalo.com, has claimed the account is his to use and that PhoneDog lodged its complaint because he sued first, over money the company allegedly owes him.
The lawsuits were filed in June and July, but the controversy went high-profile when The New York Times published a story about it on Christmas Day.