In fact, Epicor and Alternative engaged in discussions about the authorized partner program in 2010 and Alternative received written and verbal confirmation that it could join, according to the response.
But negotiations subsequently dragged on and in April 2012 Epicor asked Alternative to put a disclaimer on its website regarding the "non-affiliation" of the two companies, the response adds.
In December 2012, a former controller of Epicor, Laura Modlin, interviewed for a similar position at Alternative, according to the response.
"Alternative's third party recruiter, unbeknownst to Alternative at the time, shared with Modlin certain aspects of Alternative's overall success, growth, and profitability," it states.
Subsequently, Alternative's profitability "became known to Epicor" and sparked the lawsuit as well as an effort to force Alternative out of the Epicor support business, the response alleges.
After Epicor filed the suit, company officials contacted Alternative employees and offered them jobs, according to Alternative's response. Epicor also reached out to Alternative customers and contractors, telling them that Epicor would not work with Alternative "in any manner," the filing adds.
Epicor has "attempted to coerce its customers into using only Epicor Authorized Partners to provide services for the Epicor 9 platform," despite the fact that customers' contracts allow the use of consultants such as Alternative, "by threatening to void the customer's warranty if the customer chooses to use Alternative," according to the filing.
Epicor also allegedly began requiring independent contractors to stop working for nonauthorized Epicor partners. One independent contractor Alternative had been working with quit an ongoing project as a result, causing Alternative "significant damages" as it searches for a replacement, according to its response.
Ultimately, Epicor has a "stranglehold" on the market for Epicor 9 services and therefore, "a dangerous probability of achieving a monopoly for those services that are otherwise lawfully permitted under the Copyright Act," the filing alleges.
While focused on ERP implementation and development services, the Epicor-Alternative dispute has some echoes of the ongoing debate over third-party software maintenance, in which a customer goes off vendor-provided support and contracts instead with a company such as Rimini Street for bug fixes, regulatory updates and tech support.
Third-party maintenance providers say they charge much less and deliver better service, although customers no longer receive ongoing new releases of the software.