Epicor is suing IT service provider Alternative Technology Solutions, claiming the company illegally used its ERP (enterprise resource planning) software in order to develop and sell add-ons and services, in a case that has parallels to tussles over third-party software maintenance.
Alternative is not an authorized partner of Epicor, yet sells implementation, training and tech support services and develops add-ons for the company's software, according to Epicor's suit, which was filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
These "bolt-on" products can't be developed without access to Epicor's software, but Epicor has never licensed its software to Alternative or authorized a third party to give Alternative access to it, according to the suit.
Alternative has "duplicated" Epicor's software or gained unauthorized access to it, "all in direct violations of not only Epicor's copyrights and trade secret rights, but also the Software License Agreements between Epicor and Epicor customers," the suit alleges.
Alternative consultants, many of whom used to work at Epicor, remotely use an imaged copy of Epicor 9 software, according to the suit.
The company's actions amount to "hijacking" Epicor's software and are stealing away application customization work from Epicor, the suit alleges.
In addition, Alternative uses Epicor trademarks on "a wide assortment" of marketing materials, giving "wrongful insinuations of an authorized partnership with Epicor."
Authorized partners are subject to guidelines and obligations that protect customers, giving them "an added measure of assurance" the partner can handle the job, according to the suit. In addition, authorized partners get licensed access to Epicor software.
Alternative is headed by Vivian Keena, who previously served in a number of roles at Epicor, including as its vice president of consulting services for the Americas.
Keena's senior role meant she had access to Epicor trade secrets, as well as its list of customers, suppliers and vendors, the suit adds. While working there, Keena signed an agreement pledging not to reveal any of that sensitive information, according to the suit.
Her employment at Epicor ended in December 2008 and she subsequently signed an agreement that required her to give back any company documents pertaining to proprietary or confidential information, maintain the confidentiality of the data, and refrain from recruiting Epicor employees.
Another former Epicor employee, Donna Barnett, serves as Alternative's CTO. Barnett also signed a confidentiality agreement, according to the suit.
Barnett had served as director of business and technology services at Epicor, giving her deep knowledge of how its software works, according to the suit.
She was also "notably" responsible for giving consultants imaged copies of Epicor software on external hard drives, which they could use for troubleshooting and other purposes "without fear of damaging, or otherwise altering, the configuration of a customer installation," the suit adds.
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