Infanet alleges theft in suit vs. IAM.com

Online casting site accuses another of stealing biz plans

IAM.com, the online casting venture announced last week by former William Morris agent Brian Gersh, has already been saddled with a $50 million lawsuit, charging the idea was lifted from rival e-tailer Infanet.

In papers filed Dec. 9 with the Los Angeles Superior Court, entertainment e-commerce company Infanet alleges that IAM.com illegally made use of confidential business plans when setting up shop.

Officially bowing in February, IAM.com is an online database of aspiring talents’ demo reels accessible by agents, managers and producers.

Infanet is claiming that its former board of directors member Roger Wilson and Gersh, an Infanet consultant, wrongly benefited from Infanet strategies when the two decided to form their own company IAM.com.

Unsuccessful pitch

Gersh and Wilson chose to set up their own shingle after an unsuccessful ‘Net pitch meeting (acting on behalf of Infanet) with venture capital firm Sierra Ventures.

Sierra disliked the Infanet economic model (a tool where actors, management and entertainment production companies find headshots and video clips on the ‘Net) because it would not be profitable enough.

But Gersh and Wilson succeeded in locking up Sierra funding for IAM, a business with a similar purpose.

“This case unfortunately reflects the adaptation of the worst practices of the entertainment community to the new business of Internet — the stealing of intellectual property from the innocent to the powerful,” said Infanet’s attorney Eileen Cohn of Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem. “When you are on the board of directors of one company, you have a duty of loyalty to that company — you can’t bring to a competitor the product you once committed to.”

Vigorous defense

An IAM rep told Daily Variety, “The company believes the allegations are totally without merit, and will vigorously defend against them.” IAM must officially respond to the suit within 30 days.

Infanet is also suing Sierra Ventures’ exec and IAM board member Jeffrey M. Drazan, in addition to Gersh and Wilson, for breach of confidence, fraud and deceit, violation of the California Uniform Trades Secret Act and unfair competition.

IAM is the latest Web site to generate legal flak over the past few months. GoTo.com is battling Disney over its similar traffic light logo and script service GoCoverage.com was threatened with legal action from agents around town for its business practices.

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