Australian "deal of the day" site Cudo has sent local group-buying aggregation site Buyii a letter claiming Buyii is infringing its copyright by listing its deals and logo alongside those of rivals.
Buyii aggregates deals from a plethora of Australian sites set up to mimic the international success of US giant Groupon, which has hit the financial stratosphere with its group-buying model targeting distinct geographies. Prominent Australian sites like Spreets, Cudo, Scoopon and Jump On It are all represented on Buyii, as well as a handful of smaller sites.
However, Emren Kara, general counsel for Microsoft and ninemsn joint venture Cudo, as well as ninemsn itself, sent Buyii a letter on Friday alleging the site was making "unauthorised use" of its content, including the text summary of Cudo's daily deals, the Cudo name and logo and so on, and demanding the aggregation practice stop.
"If you do not comply with the above requirements, Cudo will pursue the necessary legal action against you in order to protect its rights," the letter states.
In a separate statement, Cudo chief executive Billy Tucker said it was "critical" that the company was able to control the use of its brand, as well as those of the partners it worked with. "We made a number of attempts to contact Buyii by email and by phone with no success," he said. "We feel that we had no choice by to issue a [cease and desist]."
Buyii founder Zhen Lim said that in contrast to Cudo's approach, other group buying sites had actually requested Buyii add their deals to its site. "We have never received a complaint from any of the other 21 current group-buying sites we monitor or the four soon to launch in the new few weeks. In fact, we can proudly say we have healthy relationships with most if not all of the other group buying sites," he said.
Buyii had, he said, previously attempted to contact Cudo to request help in adding the ninemsn-backed site to Buyii's list and to inquire whether the site operated affiliate programs, as some other sites did. However, most of Buyii's communications were ignored, Lim said, with the exception of "a single sentence reply" from Tucker after the chief executive was contacted through his personal blog.
Lim said Buyii would continue to aggregate Cudo's deals, and disagreed with many of the statements in the company's legal letter, such as the claim that Buyii was "trading off" the Cudo name and reputation. "We do not agree with the allegations that we are misleading visitors into thinking Buyii are official partners of Cudo," said Lim.
However, the aggregation site will make a few changes to how it deals with Cudo, such as stopping the practice of copying and pasting Cudo's deal descriptions and displaying the Cudo logo. A disclaimer stating that Cudo no longer wishes its content to be used will be added to the Cudo deals on the site. Buyii already re-wrote the title headlines of the Cudo deals and will continue to do so.
Some things will remain the same, though. For example, Buyii will continue to link directly to Cudo's site. "If Cudo wishes to take Buyii over copyright infringement of publishing a URL, this would be to my knowledge a first in Australia if not the world," said Lim.
Lim said that he personally thought that Cudo was going against the spirit of group buying, which has the roots of its popularity in social media, with deals commonly being forwarded around Facebook and other social networks. In addition, Lim said, he believed Cudo might have been influenced by what he claimed was the corporate culture of its parents.
"It seems Billy Tucker has inherited or been forced to adopt the Microsoft mentality of 'going alone' and is attempting to take a stranglehold over the group buying space at all cost, even ones that seem to inconvenience users," Lim said. "He has at his disposal the ninemsn legal team and has sent this cease and desist in an attempt to scare away the 'little guy'. Buyii views this action as bullying and we'll continue to fight for our users and for the sake of principles, that such information should be readily available for all readers and visitors of daily deal aggregator sites, not just Buyii.com.au."