Home Case Over Who Owns Ex-Employee’s Twitter Followers Moves Forward

Case Over Who Owns Ex-Employee’s Twitter Followers Moves Forward

San Francisco-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James will allow a case by a company arguing that a Twitter list created by an ex-employee is its property to proceed.

PhoneDog LLC, which reviews mobile phones and other tech products, is claiming that former employee Noah Kravitz owes it $340,000, or $2.50 for each Twitter follower he kept by switching the name of his Twitter account after he stopped working for PhoneDog. James denied a motion to dismiss by Kravitz on Monday in a case that is being closely watched by companies that have employees develop social media platforms as part of their jobs.

The case, however, may not be the precendent-setting lawsuit employers and employees are hoping for. As reported last month, the case is fact specific, meaning it will be judged on its individual merits and similar situations at other companies may have different facts and, therefore, different outcomes.

“This case is another example of the application of relatively old legal rules applied to new technology,” Bill Nolan, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, said in January. “It’s the 2011 version of the salesperson taking the Rolodex when he/she leaves the company.”

Kravitz started the @Phonedog_Noah Twitter account while he was tweeting and writing for the online publication. When he left the company in October 2010 he changed the account’s handle to @noahkravitz and retained the more than 17,000 followers he had amassed while working for PhoneDog.

“The Court’s decision yesterday [Monday] in effect means that PhoneDog has met the minimum requirements to survive a motion seeking to throw PhoneDog’s claims out of court, but it was not a decision as to whether or not PhoneDog is entitled to the relief it seeks,” Cary Kletter, Kravit’z attorney, said in a staement. “Ultimately PhoneDog will be unable to prove its allegations against Mr. Kravitz, and Mr. Kravitz will prevail.”

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