Yahoo, AmEx Accused Of Stealing Travel Service Idea

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Yahoo and American Express have been sued by two entrepreneurs for allegedly stealing their idea for an online travel business.

Tyler Strateman and Samuel Deutsch allege in their complaint that they conceived the idea for Insider Escapes, a Web platform for affluent travelers, and then pitched the idea to American Express. Strateman and Deutsch say they aimed to offer subscribers "access to unique and personalized travel experiences inspired and sometimes hosted by a collective of influential insiders and tastemakers."

The two entrepreneurs say they developed a beta site for the initiative, which they showed to American Express in May  2012 in hopes of forming a joint venture with the company. Four months later, American Express Travel and Yahoo launched their own travel initiative, also named Insider Express.

"This is a case of egregious theft of a novel and innovative business idea in the travel industry, made worse by the misappropriation of a unique and distinctive name for that business: Insider Escapes," they allege in their complaint.

They add that their service is similar to that of Yahoo and American Express in that both offer "entire, easy-to-purchase travel experiences and the experiences are 'inspired' by celebrity travelers' recommendations."

The lawsuit, which was transferred to federal court in the Central District of California last week, alleges that Yahoo and American Express infringed the Insider Express trademark, misappropriated ideas and breached an implied contract.

"Amex's representatives were placed in a position of trust by plaintiff's representatives throughout the parties' discussions, during which time plaintiff's representatives conveyed their business plans to defendant Amex, including marketing strategy, forecasted business demand, business processes, information about business relationships, and information resulting from plaintiffs extensive market research and analysis," the lawsuit alleges.

Yahoo and American Express didn't respond to requests for comment.

This lawsuit isn't the first time Yahoo has been sued for allegedly misappropriating an idea. Last year, the New York-based author Steven Faktor sued Yahoo and the nonprofit group Score for allegedly stealing his idea for the online reality series "Remake America." Faktor said in his complaint that the Web video show replicated a concept he pitched to Score in 2011.

That case is pending in federal court in Manhattan.

 

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