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CultureMap’s Parent Company Is Suing PaperCity Over Allegations of Food Column Plagiarism and Trade Secret Theft

CultureMap is seeking more than $17 million in damages related to lost advertising revenue

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A lawsuit filed by Houston publication CultureMap alleges that its competitor and fellow publication PaperCity is responsible for the theft of both trade secrets and one of CultureMap’s most popular dining columns.

The suit, filed in the Southern District of Texas on April 30 by CultureMap parent company Gow Media, is a real doozy. First reported by Houston Citybook, the lawsuit alleges that former CultureMap employee Chad Miller took a job at PaperCity, then improperly accessed the publication’s database of information on its advertising clients, using that information to undercut CultureMap’s salespeople. According to the suit, CultureMap claims that Miller’s actions cost the company more than $860,800 in advertising revenue every year since his departure in 2016.

Most interestingly, though, CultureMap also claims that PaperCity frequently, and blatantly, plagiarized the website’s content. According to the suit, PaperCity ripped off food editor Eric Sandler’s recurring “Where to Eat in Houston Right Now” column, renaming it “Where to Eat Right Now in Houston” in an “amateurish and poorly disguised act of mimicry.” It also claims that PaperCity would frequently “publish slightly re-worded CultureMap exclusives shortly after they went live.” Yikes.

In the suit, CultureMap seeks more than $17 million in damages related to that lost advertising revenue, along with attorneys’ fees and court costs. The company has also filed a request for a permanent injunction that would bar PaperCity from using or disclosing any confidential information that it allegedly acquired from Gow Media.

PaperCity has not yet responded to CultureMap’s lawsuit in court. A pre-trial conference is set for July 30.

Disclosure: Eric Sandler is the former editor of Eater Houston.

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