Ad agency sues start-up company, says it is using copy stolen from pitch session Eisner seeks $100,000 in damages from Nexus

Advertising

November 19, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Eisner & Associates Inc., a Baltimore advertising and public relations firm, is suing a start-up company it claims is illegally using billboard advertisements the agency tried to sell it

The billboard ads, at four or more locations around the city, promote 555-Need, a service that allows people to dial a free number to receive product and service information that previously had been obtained from printed phone directories.

"Everybody at Eisner saw it on the way to work," said Marc S. Rosen, a Baltimore attorney representing Eisner. "It was like seeing a ghost."

A meeting is planned in the next few weeks with representatives of Nexus Communications Inc., which began offering its 555-Need services in June, to determine whether the matter can be resolved without going to court.

"It seems to be that this case falls under the category of an unfortunate misunderstanding," said James P. Ulwick, a Baltimore attorney representing Nexus.

"My clients believe that the original idea for the ad was one that they had."

The lawsuit filed recently in federal court alleges that Eisner created the billboard ads in May 1996 and met with Nexus Communications executives to pitch promotional ideas in hopes of being retained as the new company's advertising agency. Eisner subsequently copyrighted the material, a technical requirement in filing a lawsuit.

The billboard ads started popping up around town in October, the court papers allege.

The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in actual damages from Nexus Communications of Hanover, and Joseph A. Mathews, its founder and chief executive officer.

Eisner could instead seek statutory damages, which would offer penalties up to a maximum of $100,000 if willful infringement was shown.

"I can't imagine any usage of someone else's work that is a clearer violation," said Rosen. "It's an identical reproduction of the work. There's no room to say that the type set was different, the concept was different or the words were different."

In an earlier interview, Nexus executives said they had budgeted about $1 million for marketing during the company's first 12 months.

Nexus representatives have about 20 days to file an answer to the lawsuit. "Whose original idea it was will be a principal issue in the case," Ulwick said. "Hopefully, it won't come to that."

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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