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CollegeSource Loses Case Against AcademyOne

(CN) - A federal judge rejected the hacking claims that CollegeSource, a provider of online college course catalogs, filed against its competitor, AcademyOne.

Soon after AcademyOne launched its websites in early 2007, CollegeSource CEO Kerry Cooper discovered that some of AcademyOne's documents had been copied from CollegeSource servers.

The San Diego-based CollegeSource says it had refused the initial requests from AcademyOne to obtain its course catalog data. AcademyOne, of West Chester, Pa., then partnered with the Chinese company Beijing Zhongtian-Noah Sports Science to retrieve the data using the CataLink hyperlink archival service.

Cooper hand-delivered a cease-and-desist letter to AcademyOne in April 2007, at which point the company disabled all its website's links to catalogs and initiated an internal investigation regarding CollegeSource's allegations.

The investigation led AcademyOne to remove all catalogs from its servers in January 2011, and then repopulate its databases without files obtained from the Chinese company.

CollegeSource sued AcademyOne in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in July 2010. There is also an earlier case between the same parties in California, but the 9th Circuit has stayed that case pending resolution of the more developed Pennsylvania case.

Resolution came last week when U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin sided with AcademyOne at summary judgment.

"The fact that the notices make reference to copyright ownership to declare limitations on user rights would suggest that the restrictions are grounded in copyright law, not contract law," McLaughlin wrote. "A reasonable party reading the documents would not be aware of the contractual nature of the documents.

"Because no contract was ever formed by the notice, AcademyOne could not have breached any such contract," she added.

CollegeSource also cannot support the claim that AcademyOne violated the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

"The record does not reflect any evidence of a breach of security or 'hacking' by AcademyOne," the 57-page opinion states. "Nor is there evidence that AcademyOne's free trial subscriptions were used to download CollegeSource documents for commercial purposes."

"The court holds that because the documents in issue were available to the general public, AcademyOne did not access them without authorization," McLaughlin added. "Moreover, because AcademyOne was under no obligation to abide by any terms of use as to its CataLink access, it did not exceed authorized access."

CollegeSource also lost its claims of trademark infringement, trademark invalidity, false advertising, and unfair competition under the Lanham Act.

"In sum, the plaintiff has not pointed to sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable jury to find in its favor on counts 3 through 9 of the amended complaint," she wrote. "Because the plaintiff has raised no genuine issue of material fact, the defendant is entitled to summary judgment on all remaining counts. The defendant's motion is granted and judgment is entered in AcademyOne's favor."

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