Ipreo Holdings, a New York-based provider of software and market intelligence services for investment banking and corporate clients, has filed a lawsuit against financial giant Goldman Sachs alleging copyright infringement and theft of trade secrets.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, charges several unidentified employees of Goldman Sachs with illegally accessing an Ipreo database and stealing data from it.

The lawsuit seeks at least $1 million in compensatory damages and another $2 million in punitive damages from Goldman Sachs.

A spokeswoman for Goldman said the claims were without merit but offered no other comment.

Ipreo maintains a database called Bigdough, which it claims took years of effort and substantial investment to build. According to the company's description of Bigdough, the database is the most complete and accurate listing of "buy-side portfolio and asset managers, sell-side institutions, funds and 80,000 contacts in the financial industry." The company claims over 16,000 subscribers to the database.

"The database is of unparalleled value to financial institutes such as defendant Goldman," from a marketing standpoint, Ipreo claimed in its complaint.

Ipreo said at least two Goldman Sachs employees, and possibly several more, illegally accessed the Bigdough database on dozens of occasions in 2008 and 2009.

In its complaint, Ipreo alleged that its database had been illegally accessed at least 264 times by Goldman employees using login credentials belonging to someone else.

The company claimed that Goldman employees downloaded substantial amounts of data from its database during these illegal visits. Ipreo claimed that Goldman tried to play down the seriousness of the situation when informed about the illegal access.

Goldman admitted that the IP addresses associated with the illegal logins belonged to it, but tried to portray it as the act of a lone employee, the complaint noted.

"Defendants knew they lacked Ipreo's permission to use or licence the contacts, annotations or other copyrighted protected expression in the database," the complaint.

It sought to hold Goldman vicariously liable for allowing its employees to use company systems and infrastructure to illegally access Ipreo's database. The company had the right and the ability to monitor its employees and control what they do on the network, but failed to do so, the complaint said.