AUSTIN – TriMax Media along with Laura Woodruff, WREI Inc. and Josh West filed an appeal April 21 to block a $2.3 million judgment against them in the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas.
Back in early February, a Texas federal jury ruled in favor of competitor WickFire, claiming that TriMax Media had committed click fraud against its fellow Internet ad placement company.
According to the judgment written by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, the jury sided with WickFire for the following reasons.
"Defendants (1) misrepresented WickFire as the source of advertisements by placing advertisements containing identifying information distinctive of WickFire in a manner that was likely to cause confusion; (2) intentionally interfered with WickFire's existing contracts; (3) tortiously interfered with WickFire's prospective business relationships, (4) were part of a conspiracy that damaged WickFire; and (5) acted with malice or gross negligence,’’ the judgment said.
The jury awarded WickFire $2,318,000 in damages and attributed 95 percent of the responsibility to Woodruff and 5 percent to West, the judgment said.
The jury, though, also found that WickFire, Chet Hall and Jon Brown intentionally interfered with TriMax and Woodruff's existing contracts, but concluded they had a right to do so.
The judgment said "the jury further found counter-defendants were not liable for TriMax's remaining counterclaims of intentional interference with prospective business relationships, business disparagement and defamation. As a result, the jury unanimously found TriMax and Laura Woodruff should take nothing on their counterclaims and third-party claims.’’
TriMax claimed victory and issued a number of press releases spinning the story in its favor.
One headline on PR Newswire reads, "WickFire LLC Found Guilty of Intentional Interference With TriMax Media's Business."
Another headline on another website, Benzinga.com, reads, "Jury Finds Wickfire, Chet Hall and Jon Brown Intentionally Interfered with TriMax's Business."
In the PR Newswire press release, this was TriMax’s take on the decision: "An Austin-based jury unanimously found that Wickfire LLC intentionally interfered with one or more of TriMax Media LLC's contracts. However, the jury failed to award damages. TriMax has filed a notice of appeal regarding the lack of damages awarded as well as other portions of the jury verdict."
The press release also made mention of how TriMax will proceed with its appeal.
The crux of the lawsuit involves Google AdWords Auctions, an online-auction platform where companies compete for advertising space.
The press release made the following claims against WickFire, saying it interfered with TriMax’s contracts.
The press release said Wickfire interfered by "(1) paying kickbacks to merchant representatives in exchange for exclusivity agreements; (2) impersonating TriMax by placing unauthorized ads that plagiarized TriMax's ad copy and contained other identifying information of TriMax; (3) repeatedly clicking on TriMax ads in order to artificially increase TriMax's costs (known as 'click fraud'); and (4) using an automated software program to manipulate the Google auction system (known as 'bid jamming')."
Attorney Sidney Powell will represent TriMax in the appeal. An attorney for Wickfire did not respond to The Record's request for an interview.