There's a trail of press releases from American Energy Mapping over the last few months that tell the story. (The releases are only on the wire services, not on the company's website.)
Nov 2012 - American Energy Mapping (AEM) Revolutionizes GIS Data Acquisition for the Oil and Gas Industry
The company begins to offer perpetual licenses, which it calls ownership of data. "...the addition of "perpetual" licenses ... allow[s] for GIS Data users to actually own their data rather than "borrow" it for a limited time."
Feb 2013 - American Energy Mapping (AEM) marries e-commerce with energy GIS data
The company open its store:
the launch of the industry's first and only online GIS Data store where companies can purchase shape files [sic] for natural gas pipelines, crude oil pipelines, petroleum products pipelines, liquid products pipelines, facilities, oil and gas wells, land grid (PLSS), culture data, and more.
"We felt it was time to let the industry know what we believe to be the truth when it comes to this type of [oil and gas GIS] information. No vendor holds a special secret formula or invention that makes the data worth the exorbitant pricing we see out there," [AEC President] Mr. Wolff points out, "and we felt that people should hear there is a better, faster, and more reasonably priced way to obtain the data than what they have been faced with over the years."
AEM identifies its tormentor.
The lawsuit, filed on May 7, 2013
(Case Number 13-05-04872) alleges that Hart Energy
solicited the assistance of another person or company to pretend to be a valid client of AEM in order to "trick" AEM into providing competitor information that is protected by a signed license agreement which includes language preventing such activity from taking place.
Hart responded to the May lawsuit (above) with a counterclaim.
Hart's response to that lawsuit was to file a Counterclaim alleging misappropriation of Pipeline GIS Data they claim is proprietary.
I don't know what that means, but I think it has to do with AEM using public data that Hart claims is proprietary. Wolff, now noted as "owner" of AEM, cites the recent Orange County vs. Sierra Club decision confirming that GIS data are public data and hence accessible, at the cost of duplication, under California law. (APB coverage
"The idea that you can take publicly available information, group it using commonly available tools, and call it proprietary is woefully incorrect as evidenced by the California Supreme Court's decision," said Mr. Wolff, "and since Hart's mapping division is physically based in California the ruling directly applies to Hart."
Since I'm unclear on the accusation, I can't be sure if the ruling is relevant. However, it's my understanding that many data providers use, say, U.S. government TIGER data as a basis for their datasets. They enhance them, clean them, format them and license them. And, again, as I understand it, the resulting product is proprietary and thus licensed. That's the model that HERE (Nokia/NAVTEQ) and TomTom (Tele Atlas/GDT) started with back in the day. I'm not sure the California ruling had any bearing on this sort of use and claims of ownership, but I guess we will find out.
AEM believes those involved in giving Hart proprietary information about its products may not in fact be guilty. So, the AEM is offering amnestry until Sept 15.
"I do not believe that the customers in question are a voluntary participant in these wrongful activities," said Damien Wolff, Owner of AEM, "and as such I am willing to not pursue license violation remedies for those companies who come forward if they were unknowingly involved by Hart Energy and are willing to resolve the matter directly.
One more thing: I'm always suspicious of lawsuits that are played out in the media via press release.