Website design was stolen, says US jury

. A US court found the man liable for copyright infringement and in breach of contract in his property business.

ConsulNet Computing told the court in Pennsylvania that Megel David Moore had signed up for a free trial of its property marketing websites under false pretences and copied its business model.

ConsulNet said that Moore claimed to be a Re/Max broker when he signed up to the company's 60-day free trial, even though he had no licence to deal in property.

It said that he went on to copy not only the way the sites looked and operated but the actual computer code behind them. It said that he copied many lines of code in putting together his own sites.

Moore then approached existing ConsulNet customers and marketed his similar services at significantly reduced costs, the suit said. It said that Moore poached 175 of its customers over the course of a number of years, and that his business was almost entirely dependent on ex-ConsulNet customers.

ConsulNet sells its web designs and lead generation services to property selling companies and said that it had copyrighted its techniques, and that Moore violated these copyrights. It also said that he violated the contract covering his free trial.

Moore said that he had created his sites independently and that none involved the use of other people's copyrighted material. His company traded online as Web Agent Solutions.

A jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that Moore and his company Dynamic Investment Group infringed copyright on some of the websites, though it also found that he did not infringe copyright on others.

The jury also said not only that he interfered with the contractual relations between ConsulNet and its clients but that the interference was 'outrageous'. This opens the way for punitive damages to be awarded.

The Court will meet shortly to determine damages.