By Shayna Posses
New York — Honeywell International Inc. tried to capitalize on the success of a rival’s online fire and safety inspection tools by hacking into its computer system and stealing its intellectual property, customer list and eventually employees in the process of launching a competing product, according to a suit filed Friday in Georgia federal court.
BuildingReports.com Inc. alleges that Honeywell’s foray into the world of inspection report software and tools was marked by a “pattern of illicit conduct” in its suit accusing the tech giant of worming its way into — and damaging — BRC’s computer system, as well as trying to poach BRC’s customers and employees in the process of creating and launching the eVance Services program.
“This lawsuit arises out of Honeywell’s attempts to mimic BRC’s successful business model and develop this new, competing business line using improper means, including stealing BRC’s intellectual property, hacking into BRC’s computer system without authorization, scraping BRC’s website to obtain BRC’s customer list, damaging BRC’s computer system in the process, and then using the fruits of these labors to solicit BRC’s clients,” the complaint says.
Georgia-based BRC provides a number of online tools that help service providers, building owners, property managers, and fire and safety officials conduct a wide variety of inspections, including checking for compliance with local codes and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. These tools help reduce costs and compliance risks, according to BRC.
Among other products, the company offers clients web portals that allow them to log in and access inspection reports and tools. In connection with these offerings, BRC has secured a handful of copyrights on its inspection reports, the complaint asserts.
BRC first learned that Honeywell wanted to develop a competing product in 2011, when multiple people told it that Honeywell executives had approached them at an industry conference to ask what company they used for testing, according to the suit.
By early 2012, Honeywell had started downloading copies of BRC inspection reports from the company’s web portal without its knowledge, using logins Honeywell convinced an employee of one of BRC’s customers to create, the complaint says.
Meanwhile, Honeywell divisions were trying to squeeze information out of BRC more directly, with executives submitting requests for details about several applications through the company’s website, as well as asking for meetings in person, according to the suit.
Honeywell formally introduced its competing web-based inspection system in June 2014, the suit says.
A few months later, BRC launched a member locator function that allowed building owners to look up BRC customer service companies in their area. Within a week, Honeywell was systematically scraping the locator server to nab BRC’s customer list, using a software tool it created to force its way into the system, according to the complaint.
These searches dramatically slowed the server’s ability to service current and potential customers, leading to complaints and requiring a pair of BRC employees to work to mitigate and prevent the infiltration, the suit says.
Using the information it obtained, Honeywell has solicited a number of BRC’s customers, persuading some to move their accounts over, the suit alleges. Honeywell has also actively tried to steal BRC’s workers, including getting BRC specialist Jeff Montoney to jump ship in February, according to the complaint.
Honeywell has repeatedly used, reproduced, distributed and promoted inspection reports that are very similar to, if not clearly derived from, BRC’s copyrighted reports, to the point that customers have asked whether the companies are partners, the suit says.
BRC brings a number of claims against the company, including copyright infringement and tortious interference with employee relationships, as well as violations of Georgia’s Trade Secrets Act and Computer Systems Protection Act.
BRC seeks injunctive relief; compensatory, statutory and punitive damages; unlawful gains and profits; and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Representatives for the parties didn’t immediately return requests for comment Monday.
BRC is represented by Steven G. Hill, Douglas R. Kertscher and Martha L. Decker of Hill Kertscher & Wharton LLP.
Counsel information for Honeywell wasn’t immediately available.
The suit is BuildingReports.com Inc. v. Honeywell International Inc., suit number 1:17-cv-03140, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
–Editing by Pamela Wilkinson.
Original story can be found here: https://www.law360.com/articles/956162/honeywell-rival-says-it-hacked-into-system-and-stole-ip