Web Firms In Court Over Customer Information
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Two Pittsburgh-based Web design firms are locked in a bitter legal dispute over customer information.
The judge's temporary restraining order also ordered Sladekutter to return the e-mails and other files that it obtained during a Nov. 13, 1998 break-in.
"This was corporate espionage by a competitor aimed at putting us out of business," said John Kuntz, Labwerks president and chief executive officer.
The conflict centers around Daniel Dehner, a former Sladekutter employee who is now chief technical officer for Labwerks. At one point, Dehner was doing work for both design firms and would occasionally use Sladekutter's systems to access Labwerks' computers in order to complete projects.
According to Kuntz of Labwerks, in mid-November someone from Sladekutter systemically tried more than 50 times to log in to Dehner's account on Labwerk's Exchange server.
"They tried many iterations using information from his personnel file until they finally found the letters DAN and the last four digits of his social security number," he said.
In a court hearing, Sladekutter confessed to the break-in and file theft, according to Kuntz. But in a statement, Sladekutter officials claim that their access of Labwerk's server was for the purpose of retreiving company property. The company likened the situation to "being called a trespasser for entering the garage of a neighbor who has taken your lawn mower, only to get your lawn mower back."
Sladekutter claims Dehner had signed a non-compete clause when he started work for Sladekutter, a contract which his work for Labwerks violated. The company has filed its own civil action against Labwerks and claims it ultimately will be vindicated.