internet Brands today has commenced a lawsuit in the courts of England and Wales against Xenforo, and its founders, Kier, Mike and Ashley. The lawsuit is about these claims: infringement of our copyrighted intellectual property, breach of contract, and unfair business practices.
The suit is simple: we claim that Kier, Mike, and Ashley have infringed and violated contracts they signed with us to gain unfair business advantage. As such, Xenforo’s software unfairly stands on the shoulders of more than a decade of development by Jelsoft. Internet Brands owns this intellectual property.
In total, we are stunned by the actions of Kier, Mike, and Ashley and believe they must not fully understand the laws of copyrights, contract or business torts. Perhaps Kier and Mike think they have “refactored” enough of the code to skirt copyright law. Our analysis strongly indicates otherwise and we believe anyone skilled in understanding such things will concur. Perhaps they are of the misguided belief that because they created some of the vBulletin code as Jelsoft employees, they somehow have unique claims to that property. If so, that too is wrong. Kier’s and Mike’s work as Jelsoft employees was the exclusive property of their employer, and the former owners of Jelsoft not only paid Kier and Mike well during their employment, Kier was paid a handsome bonus when Internet Brands bought the business, although no such payment was required.
If the proverbial shoe were on the other foot and rather than buying vBulletin, Internet Brands had instructed our engineers to essentially copy the software, we would have been law breakers. But Internet Brands chose to play by copyright rules and bought the vBulletin intellectual property. And, in our opinion, no matter how Kier, Mike, and Ashley try to “spin” their actions, they have not. A key test for infringement is a determination as to whether a substantial portion of the underlying work amounts to an expression of the prior work. We believe we will be able to easily show that Xenforo is infringing under this test. We have numerous other claims against Xenforo that we believe are equally strong.
We trust that software purchasers understand the risks of infringement of copyright law and act accordingly. We have requested that Kier, Mike and Ashley refrain from selling the software while the issues, inclusive of our infringement claims, are heard in the courts. We intend to pursue our rights broadly and vigorously.
We consider Kier and Mike to be talented developers, but ones who potentially fail to grasp the implications of their actions.
We imagine that many of you in the community will have questions or concerns and we want to be as open and straightforward with all of you throughout this process as possible; however, since this matter is now being handled by the court system, we may be limited in some regards to what we can discuss.