Instacart takes Uber’s Cornershop to court over alleged catalog, IP theft

Instacart claims thousands of images have been stolen and cease-and-desist demands have been ignored.

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Instacart has filed a lawsuit against Uber's Cornershop service for allegedly stealing intellectual property.

On July 16, the US grocery delivery service accused Cornershop of scraping Instacart resources to steal product images from the firm's catalog, "concealing this theft and passing off this work as their own."

Instacart said the "brazen" theft included the "systematic" lifting of copyrighted product images, many of which were created in-house. 

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Furthermore, the company claims that Cornershop attempted to disguise the theft by changing file names. 

To bolster its case, Instacart added that vacancies posted by Cornershop have asked for scraping and rate limit bypass experience, demonstrating the IP theft is a "strategic effort for the company."

"We've invested tens of millions of dollars and a tireless amount of effort across our teams to build the world's largest and most comprehensive grocery catalog," Instacart said in a Medium blog post. "This has required us to develop proprietary technology and operations to collect, photograph, and curate items from more than 30,000 store locations across the markets we serve."

Instacart says cease-and-desist orders have been ignored by Cornershop. A jury trial has since been requested in Texas. 

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"While we welcome competition and innovation, what Cornershop is doing is illegal," the delivery service added. "We don't take the decision to litigate lightly, but believe today's actions are necessary to protect our business and our retail partners from Cornershop's ongoing theft."

Cornershop was acquired by Uber on a majority-stake basis in 2019 and operates in Latin America, with small services also rolling out in Texas and Miami. 

Speaking to the Financial Times, Uber said a formal response to the complaint is forthcoming. 

"Instacart is facing a new challenge in the US from a Chilean upstart, and it's unfortunate that their first move is litigation instead of competition," Uber commented.

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In related news this month, Uber acquired the Postmates delivery app in an all-stock transaction worth $2.65 billion. Uber said the online delivery service would continue to function as a distinct business but would benefit from "a more efficient, combined merchant and delivery network." The deal is expected to close in Q1 2021. 

Several weeks later, the company announced the purchase of transit software company Routematch for an undisclosed amount.

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