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Local Groupon clone claims AOL, Patch stole its business idea, name

Waltham-based Wow What Savings wants at least $5 million from AOL and its Patch subsidiary for setting up a similarly cloned group-buying site at wow.com.

In its lawsuit, originally filed in state courts but recently transferred to US District Court in Boston, Wow What Savings charges that AOL launched its site only after a meeting between Wow What Savings owner Todd Riderman and Patrick Purcell Jr., publisher of AOL's hyperlocal Patch sites in New England (Ed. note: He's Herald Publisher Patrick Purcell's son).

Todd Rideman, whose own site started up in August, 2009, claims he met with Purcell at a Belmont Starbucks this past summer, described his company's business model and eventually offered to do business with Patch.

After some followup discussions, Rideman claims, Purcell told him AOL had no interest in a Groupon cline.

Purcell was fully aware that wowwhatsavings.com called itself "Wow," as Rideman always referred to his business as "Wow on it when he met Purcell in June or July 2010.

This past November, AOL launched wow.com to offer group discounts on stuff - with Boston one of its initial markets, just like Wow What Savings.

Since then, Wow What Savings charges, its business is down 10% and both business owners and consumers are becoming increasingly confused. The suit alleges a North End restaurant owner agreed to a deal with wow.com thinking it was Wow What Savings.

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While the business model is not unique, the name certainly is. I can easily imagine 'Wow.com' and 'Wow What Savings' being conflated with each other. That is occurred after discussions between companies makes it especially suspect.

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