The Penny Hoarder sues rival The Smart Wallet for copyright infringement, stealing trade secrets

The St. Petersburg-based publication accused the rival personal finance site of closely mirroring a number of elements unique to The Penny Hoarder.
The Penny Hoarder laid off a portion of its staff this week as part of a reorganization. Pictured is the company’s website in March. [Courtesy of The Penny Hoarder]
The Penny Hoarder laid off a portion of its staff this week as part of a reorganization. Pictured is the company’s website in March. [Courtesy of The Penny Hoarder]
Published May 31

Personal finance publication The Penny Hoarder is suing New York-based competitor The Smart Wallet for copyright infringement and allegedly instructing a former employee to steal trade secrets.

In a lawsuit filed in Florida's middle district federal court in May, the St. Petersburg-based publication accused the rival personal finance site of closely mirroring a number of elements unique to The Penny Hoarder, which targets a millennial audience.

"Too many times we’ve heard about big corporations taking advantage of hard-working content creators who lack the resources to fight back," Kyle Taylor, The Penny Hoarder CEO, said in a statement. "We believe we have a duty to stand up for them and ourselves rather than stand idly by and watch it happen again."

The Smart Wallet, contacted through its parent company Fluent Co., did not return requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Among the elements The Smart Wallet allegedly copied were The Penny Hoarder's website format and a nearly identical widget that asks "Do you think this article might help you put more money in your pocket?"

The lawsuit said The Smart Wallet's content also was taken from The Penny Hoarder and repackaged. One article was a piece by The Penny Hoarder titled, "If you have one of these nine bad habits, you could get paid for it," published in August 2018. The following month, Fluent's publication put out a piece headlined, "How to get paid for your nine bad habits."

One of the larger accusations The Penny Hoarder made is that Smart Wallet attempted to hired away several employees, including one to copy "password-protected, double-authenticated backend source code."

"This source code is largely unique to (The Penny Hoarder), includes innovation initiatives, software design patterns and security keys, among other things," the lawsuit said. "(It) is the culmination of years of (The Penny Hoarder) investment and development."

According to the lawsuit, the employee testified that "(they) believe that, in retrospect, (they were) hired by Fluent in order to provide the source code."

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, The Penny Hoarder said that in addition to the allegations laid out in the lawsuit, Fluent "has tried to bully and intimidate The Penny Hoarder" by opening an office nearby and filing a lawsuit in Pinellas County court against the publication.

The Penny Hoarder is seeking damages and a temporary injunction barring Fluent from using its trade secrets.

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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