LOS ANGELES (CN) - An LSAT prep company claims in court that a law school prep site stole its copyrighted material and is posting it online for free.
Los Angeles-based Robin Singh Educational Services dba TestMasters claims Top-Law-Schools.com violates copyright to compete unfairly in LSAT preparation.
Named as defendants are Top-Law-Schools.com and its founder Ken J. DeLeon, of Palo Alto; Grant Enterprises and its president Grant Winker, of Boca Raton and Pompano Beach, Fla.; and Pamela Usukumah, residence unknown, a "moderator" for Top-Law Schools.com, and a former TestMasters student who allegedly swiped the copyrighted material.
In his federal complaint, Singh describes his company as the "second-largest LSAT preparation company in the world. It is regarded by many as the best in the business and has enjoyed media exposure, adulation from consumers, and even praise from competitors."
Singh says he has run his company for more than 20 years.
"TestMasters owes its genesis and much of its success to Singh's mastery of the LSAT and the concepts it tests," Singh says in the complaint. "He has objectively proven his expertise by achieving what no one else has even approached: a world-record twelve perfect LSAT scores."
Top-Law-Schools.com makes its money from ads on its website, Singh says.
"TLS profits by attracting aspiring law students to the site and selling advertisements that cater to them. To attract users, Top-Law-Schools.com purports to offer - for free - some of the same LSAT preparation assistance that students otherwise obtain by taking courses like TestMasters'," the complaint states.
"TLS's success in attracting visitors and selling advertisements depends in large part on the availability of instructional materials that are posted on or are distributed or promoted via Top-Law-Schools.com. In some cases, these materials have been written by Ken DeLeon or other Top-Law-Schools.com personnel. But Top-Law-Schools.com has also repeatedly posted, distributed or promoted unauthorized copies of content created by others. This has included copyrighted material belonging to TestMasters and other test preparation companies.
"TLS has significantly benefitted from the availability of such illicit content via Top-Law-Schools.com, and TLS has failed to take effective action to prevent unlawful posting, distribution, and promotion of the works of others. For example, TestMasters is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that TLS failed to train and supervise Usukumah and other moderators of Top-Law-Schools.com to prevent them from infringing copyrights and unlawfully distributing proprietary test preparation materials. TestMasters is informed and believes ... that, by encouraging moderators to post instructional materials but not training them not to infringe copyrights, TLS has knowingly encouraged infringement."
TestMasters claims Usukumah gained access to its copyrighted course materials while she enrolled with TestMasters in late 2009 and early 2010.
It claims that Usukumah signed an enrollment agreement promising never to "copy or distribute" any of TestMasters' course materials while she was a student.
But it claims that in "late October 2012, TestMasters learned that copies of the copyrighted works were being unlawfully distributed via Top-Law-Schools.com. At the time, TestMasters learned of a prominent discussion thread on Top-Law-Schools.com entitled 'FREE LSAT Prep Tools Available!' That thread was featured at the top of the site's 'LSAT Prep and Discussion Forum.' As of November 8, 2012, the thread had more than 1,200 visitors."
TestMasters claims Usukumah started the thread on Oct. 14, 2012 as one of the site's moderators, under the username "GAIA the CHEERLEADER."
TestMasters acquired copies of the materials "and learned that they consist mostly of TestMasters' copyrighted works, which were improperly copied from the private website provided for TestMasters students," according to the complaint.
It claims that the copyrighted materials the defendants put on their website include a "treatise" written by Singh that analyzes the most common flaws in logical reasoning, a "detailed analysis" of the types of reading comprehension questions that show up on the LSAT, and an analysis of the types of logical reasoning questions that appear on the exam.
"Upon further investigation, after learning about the 'FREE LSAT Prep Tools Available!' discussion thread, TestMasters learned that Pamela Usukumah and TLS had previously distributed the same copyrighted works in one or more earlier threads. TestMasters is informed and believes ... that Usukumah, acting in her capacity as moderator for TLS, began offering and distributing copies of the copyrighted works (which she described as 'LSAT prep materials') beginning in February 2012, shortly after she took the TestMasters course," the complaint states.
TestMasters claims that "at least 193 users of Top-Law-Schools.com" gained access to its copyrighted materials after Usukumah posted them on the TLS thread.
TestMasters claims the defendants' unauthorized distribution of its course materials has cost TestMasters profits, reputation and goodwill.
It claims it had to "expend time and money on corrective measures, such as efforts to locate and destroy infringing copies of the copyrighted works."
Singh claims: "Defendants' conduct has been unfair for reasons including that it is immoral, unethical, oppressive, and unscrupulous. The harm to TestMasters and to other test preparation companies from defendants' conduct far outweighs any utility such conduct could have."
TestMasters seeks declaratory judgment, a restraining order and injunction, disgorgement of unjust profits, statutory damages of $150,000 "for each infringed work," $1,450 in liquidated contract damages, and punitive damages for copyright infringement, breach of contract, interference with contract and unfair competition. It is represented by William J. O'Brien with One LLP of Beverly Hills.