Power.com Up For Auction — Facebook v. Power Ventures

[Post by Venkat Balasubramani]

Facebook v. Power Ventures, Case No. 5:08-cv-05780 JW (N.D. Cal.)

[Update/Clarification: I received an email from the CEO of RokMe Inc. (who is handling the power.com auction) to this effect:

Power.com is being sold by its owner Power Assist Inc. The domain was never owned by Power Ventures. According to Scott Smith (CEO of RokMe Inc. who is handling the auction) the domain was always owned by Power Assist Inc. (or its beneficial owner). The domain name was only leased to Power Ventures, and when the lease expired, the owner of the domain name decided to sell it.]

We’ve blogged a bunch about Facebook v. Power Ventures. Power Ventures operated power.com and billed itself as a social network aggregator. Facebook was unhappy with, among other things, the fact that Power.com allowed Facebook users to access their Facebook accounts and extract data (and contacts) through Power.com, which bypassed Facebook’s developer program.

The dispute received attention because it raised the issue of data ownership–whether Facebook could prevent a third party from accessing or exporting user data, when the third party engaged in access purportedly on behalf of users (who arguably owned the data). Facebook primarily proceeded under the theory that access of Facebook by Power Ventures violated California’s anti-hacking statute. Judge Ware agreed, and held that Facebook could make out a violation of the statute, to the extent Power Ventures circumvented technical barriers in accessing Facebook. (The EFF weighed in on the dispute, arguing that the California statute should be construed narrowly.)

Since then, very little activity has taken place in the dispute. Power Ventures moved for summary judgment, but Facebook successfully resisted the motion on the basis that it had not had an opportunity to conduct sufficient discovery.

Now I see a report from Domain Name News that power.com is listed as being up for auction (minimum bid – $2.5mm!). I’m not sure when power.com shut down its service, but this is certainly a public admission that Power Ventures is not looking to continue the fight with Facebook for the sake of operating the service at power.com. At this point, given that only attorneys’ fees are at stake, I’m surprised the parties don’t quickly settle. (I would be surprised if Facebook is looking to recover significant damages from Power Ventures. To the extent it is, Facebook may assert some sort of lien on the auction proceeds.) Sidenote: I wonder what happened to the user data from power.com?

Previous posts:

Power.com Counterclaims Dismissed — Facebook v. Power Ventures

Judge Denies Facebook’s Request for Judgment on the Pleadings and Strikes Power.com Counterclaims — Facebook v. Power.com

EFF Weighs in on Facebook v. Power Ventures — Facebook v. Power Ventures