The defunct sports publisher Fan Action has sued Yahoo's Rivals.com for $35 million for allegedly poaching writers and other employees. The lawsuit, filed by Fan Action owner Robert Firth, alleges misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract and other counts. Firth quietly filed the cast last month in state court in St. Joseph County, Ind. Last week the lawsuit was transferred to federal district court in the northern district of Indiana.
Firth's complaint alleges that Rivals.com hosted the niche site Blueandgold.com -- which covers University of Notre Dame sports teams -- from 2001 to 2005. During that time, Rivals allegedly tried to lure writers to defect from Blueandgold, according to the lawsuit.
In 2005, as the distribution contract ended, Rivals.com allegedly hired five Blueandgold.com employees and made offers to several others. Rivals.com also allegedly started the competing site IrishIllustrated.com that year and, according to the lawsuit, "began the process of misdirecting Fan Action trademarked names" to the new site via search engines.
Specifically, Firth alleges that Rivals.com used the terms Blueandgold.com, GoBlueandGold.com and other related phrases to direct search users to the new site. It's not clear from the complaint whether Rivals.com allegedly did so by using the terms to trigger paid search ads.
Firth also alleges that Rivals poached one of Blueandgold's writers while he was still under contract.
Fan Action, which is now out of business, sold Blueandgold.com to the Durham, N.C.-based Coman Publishing Company last May. That company isn't involved in the lawsuit.
Firth's attorney did not respond to Online Media Daily's request for comment.
Yahoo, which purchased Rivals.com for a reported $100 million in 2007, also did not respond to messages seeking comment.