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Google Sued for $1B Over Outlook Migration Tool 332

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-a-lotta-bucks dept.
A two-count lawsuit filed by Chicago company LimitNone alleges that Google misappropriated trade secrets and violated Illinois' consumer fraud laws when it developed "Google Email Uploader" which competes with LimitNone's "gMove" application. "Google claims its core philosophy is 'Don't be evil' but, simply put, they invited us to work with them, to trust them — and then stole our technology,'" said Ray Glassman, CEO of LimitNone, in a prepared statement. The lawsuit was filed by Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, the same commercial litigation group which challenged Google over the company's online advertising system.
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Google Sued for $1B Over Outlook Migration Tool

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:20AM (#23934345)

    Don't be first post.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:28AM (#23934495)

      Dear Anonymous Coward,

      The author of popular first-posting tool Bone-O-Rama, cyborg_monkey, has filed a lawsuit against you individually and against any entity under which you conduct business alleging infringement of Bone-O-Rama technology.

      cyborg_monkey holds that you invited him into a technology sharing agreement the terms of which prevent you from independently using, allowing others to use, or cause to be use, any first posting technology, whether derived from or distinct from, that same technology as used by Bone-O-Rama. Further allegation include but are not limited to: Repeated inappropriate remarks by you about Bone-O-Rama placed on popular blogs, your garbling of the Bone-O-Rama trademark "First Post!" (such garblings include "fr0st ps0t!" and the like), and also cyborg_monkey has a general dissatisfaction with the way you conduct yourself just in general, and we think you registered the Slashdot account cydorg_money, which is obviously trademark dillution.

      You'd be wise to post a retraction while there is still time, and apologize for your affronts to decency.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        why are you suing yourself and me?

    • "Don't be evil" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BOFHelsinki (709551) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @12:58PM (#23937031)
      Slightly off-topic but it's amusing how "Don't be evil" or "Do no evil" gets touted as Google Inc.'s "core philosophy" or company motto.

      When in reality it's chapter 6 of their Corporate Philosophy page, titled "You can make money without doing evil" -- outlining what kind of advertising you should use.

      They aren't even talking about themselves; let alone their business model.

      So why not give them some slack, everybody. They never claimed they are saints. (Although IMHO they are one of the better behaved companies out there.)
  • The Amazing Karnak (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:25AM (#23934403) Journal

    .... says that the majority of posts will be about which side is screwing who despite no one on Slashdot having any clue about what happened at the meetings between the two companies.

    Check back later for the results of the prediction.

  • That's plausible (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info AT devinmoore DOT com> on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:27AM (#23934451) Homepage Journal

    I mean it only makes sense that the large company employing the best engineers in the world would risk everything to steal a product they could write in a day, right?

    • by Pulzar (81031)

      I mean it only makes sense that the large company employing the best engineers in the world would risk everything

      Risk everything? How's this risking everything? Google's worth $170B, if they lose this case and have to pay $1B (unlikely that the penalty for stealing some minor software idea will be that large), they will be mighty annoyed, but that's about it. They'll have to make a press release about how they don't accept the verdict, they didn't do anything wrong, but want to put the case behind them and

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by maxume (22995)

        Google is *valued* at $170 billion. What they are worth is less clear. They could certainly manage a $1 billion payout, as they are pulling in a multiple of that each quarter and they have $12 billion just sitting around, but it would do more than leave a bad taste in their mouth.

  • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:28AM (#23934497)

    Perhaps I should sue them for selling a product that did what the Perl script I wrote to import ten years' worth of archives into GMail did several months before the beta was even open to anyone but friends and family of people at Google.

    You know, because its really a non-obvious idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kangman (748644)
      going through the google blog search for "limitnone" i found this blog post. http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2007/11/past-present-and-future-of-email-with.html [blogspot.com] gMOVE or "MY GRATE" (horrible name) is just an implementation of the Google Email Migration API. Hence it's open for anyone to develop their own migration tools. I really doubt that the Plaintiff's complaint that Google could NOT implement their own perhaps superior product without the knowhow of limitnone's product is legitimate. As the pos
  • I'd like to know how much R&D effort is needed to write an email migration tool.

    I'm not a programmer... but It doesn't sound like something that would justify $1B in losses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by unformed (225214)

      I'm not a doctor but I can't see why people can't just grow back their arms when an alligator eats it off.

      I mean lizards grow back tails all the time.

      I don't see what the big problem is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zifn4b (1040588)

      I'm sure it was a piece of cake to write. Microsoft's proprietary API's and file formats are all easy to use and designed for maximum interoperability with third-party software.

  • They contribute so much to our free economy! Why, they make sure that business wealth is spread around as much as possible, so that nobody gets too much!

    But of course they're well-compensated for their service! They spread all that money around, socking 20, 30 or 40% of it away for themselves, ensuring that the health of their own profession remains robust so that they can continue in this vital function.

    Like the Dean of the Duke Law School said several years ago in an interview, when asked "aren't we gett

    • Re:I Love Lawyers! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @11:17AM (#23935339) Journal

      They contribute so much to our free economy!

      When I got divorced, I was damned glad I had a good lwayer. When I subsequently filed bankrupcy, again I was glad I had a good lawyer.

      When my then-wife ("Evil-X" for those of you who have seen the Paxil Diaries) was hit by a city truck that ran a red light, well, her lawyer sucked but the medical bills got paid. I was glad she hired the same guy for the divorce.

      When your incompetent doctor who has lost his license in seven states (but there's no way for you to know that) leaves a sponge in your gut, you are going to need a good lawyer.

      I guess your idea of a "free economy" is allowing me to steal from your store.

      If you have injury and disease, you're going to need doctors. If you have computers, you are going to need programers. If you are going to have engines, you are going to need engineers. If you are going to have laws, you are going to need lawyers.

      BTW, IANAL.

  • Isn't this like the Overture thing all over again?

  • Just a hunch. Looks like Google acted like dicks here and released a free, competing product for something they'd previously partnered with LimitNone to promote (according to the article).

    On the other hand, Google could pay them off easily, and if there's a contract between the companies that doesn't stipulate non-competition, well then they can eat a dick. And theft of trade secrets? For a tool that uploads Exchange stuff to gmail? Horseshit.

  • Having written many Outlook Add-Ins, exporting Outlook to almost any format would be pretty trivial.

  • by mrpacmanjel (38218) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:43AM (#23934739)

    I have to admit if the allegations are true then Google probably has one of the best Marketing/PR departments in the world.

    I've been in the IT industry for a long time and I can still remember Microsoft's public image was similar many, many years ago! (anyone remember a small company called 'Stac'?) and it's now happening again, same 'strategy' - different company!

    Initially I was skeptical when I started reading the article (I know, I know I have just broken a Slashdot cardinal rule) when I read this:

    "..the potential for 50 million users - was "just too big to come from someone else" and that "this is how Google operates.."

    quoted from Scott McMullan, a senior executive in the Google Apps partner program

    Moral of the story?

    It's ok to be a 'partner' to a large company as long as your product is not *too* popular or successful.

    Anyone partnering with a large company should learn lessons from this - remember a large companie's main responsibility is to it's shareholders - they are the people who want a return on thier investment and usually at any cost!

    • No offense or anything but the day I buy an email migration tool...I think a lot of people feel the same way. 50 million paying users for an email migration tool? That many people haven't sprung for WinZip in its entire history, and winzip is vastly more useful.

      I think they are dramatically overestimating the amount of marketshare that they could have captured.

  • LimitNone = :'( (Score:5, Insightful)

    by introspekt.i (1233118) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:44AM (#23934753)
    I find it rather ridiculous that LimitNone actually believes that an Email client migration product is such an advanced piece of software that Google with its legions of developers and mounds of cash couldn't cook one up on its own. The article cites that LimitNone claims that the 'gMove' application was a trade secret..it wasn't even patented. This is another huge whiner case. This company has a product that has a snowball's chance in hell of competing with a 'free' Google product, yet they still expect that they are somehow entitled to money for it because Google went back on its word (not contractually..just its "word").

    I was sitting in on a product development meeting a few months back and the discussion came up on how to be viable in today's market. One of the big questions in online application entrepeneuring is: How can we remain viable against companies like Google?.. Companies like Google that can cook up the same product with all the same features in a fraction of the time. It seems that if LimitNone had applied some common sense to its product lines, it wouldn't run into the problem of oh, say, Google extending the functionality of one of its already existing applications. Whoops.

    Trade secrets? What trade secrets? Google can't write a migration suite for its own email service? Geeze.

    This is ust another case of litigation over innovation. I mean, I'm no IP law expert or anything, but a client migration tool? This could have easily have been some kind of open source project..who would LimitNone have sued then?
    • by zotz (3951)

      "The article cites that LimitNone claims that the 'gMove' application was a trade secret..it wasn't even patented."

      Quick, anyone: Can you have a patent on a trade secret? Or a trade secret on a patent?

      all the best,

      drew

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nomadic (141991)
      I find it rather ridiculous that LimitNone actually believes that an Email client migration product is such an advanced piece of software that Google with its legions of developers and mounds of cash couldn't cook one up on its own.

      I didn't see anywhere in the press release where they claim that; if the press release is true, then the issue isn't whether Google couldn't cook one up on its own, but rather that they didn't--instead of that they made a deal with this company to use their product instead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Free_Meson (706323)

      The article cites that LimitNone claims that the 'gMove' application was a trade secret..it wasn't even patented.

      Trade secrets are very rarely patented (and the patent application would end a piece of IP's status as a trade secret as it functions as a public disclosure). Most often, trade secret protection is used on IP that is not patentable and covers any IP that derives value from its secrecy (e.g. customer lists, secret formulae, etc). Trade secret protection is implemented by securing (most often throu

  • So... a corporation who says 'don't be evil' is accused of doing evil and, as they're after $1B, we can only assume they're sued by Dr. Evil.
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:56AM (#23934971) Journal

    Sure, a smile and a handshake is fine if you're doing a $300 quick job with a repeat customer, but if a billion dollars is on the line there needs to be paperwork. Now, if it is reasonable to presume that there wasn't much to be made on this at the beginning, then it is also reasonable to believe the change of heart on the part of Google is based on "new" information as to the viability of the product. If there are trade secrets involved, there should (must?) be an NDA, or it's not really a trade secret. And where do consumers come in this (i.e. the consumer fraud complaint)? It sounds like the consumers are going to make out to the tune of $29 per user.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      Sure, a smile and a handshake is fine if you're doing a $300 quick job with a repeat customer, but if a billion dollars is on the line there needs to be paperwork.

      I'm sure there is. What I think a lot of slashdotters don't seem to realize is a "contract" can take many forms, both written and non-written. An e-mail chain can be considered a written contract, for example, if enough information is contained in aggregate.

      If there are trade secrets involved, there should (must?) be an NDA, or it's not re
      • As with anything legal, there are gray areas. If verbal agreements and emails were all that were necessary, though, we wouldn't have the aforementioned instruments. Verbal agreements are hard to make stick for large and/or significant disagreements. Again, a handshake and a nod will probably work for a nominal amount in small claims court, and you can find cases of larger settlements, but this smacks of a collaborative deal that didn't pan out.

        Industrial espionage is quite different from two partners sharin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    they invited us to work with them, to trust them - and then stole our technology..."Google Email Uploader" steals gMove's look, feel and functionality

    So, they didn't steal technology, they developed a clone from scratch (apparently).

    the other party is a small software company that built its business specifically to help Google sell its existing and future products

    Right. They didn't build the business to make money, they did it to help Google.

    Google did not have a workable way to enable Microsoft Outlook users to easily migrate their email (called gMail), calendar and contacts to Google's platform.

    So, Outlook email is called "gMail"?

  • I don't think that LimitNone has a case. Sure, they can claim that their migration software was a "trade secret" - but they, of their own volition, SHARED that trade secret with Google. It wasn't like Google had trenchcoat-wearing, fedora'd agents sneak into their company and copy all the source code onto flash drives and then inconspicuously sneak out the garbage chute. They asked LimitNone if they wanted to become part of a program to help with Google Apps, and as part of that program, LimitNone divulged
  • by Anonymous Coward

    As with everyone else here, I have no idea what actually went on in the meetings between Google and this company. However, their lawyers description of events goes something like this:

    - Google launches service
    - Google notices small company's product complements service
    - Google aggressively promotes company's product
    - Google starts providing similar product as part of service

    It sounds to me like this is a "sour grapes" lawsuit. The company likely benefited tremendously from Go

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @11:06AM (#23935131)

    CNET is also covering this at http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9976405-7.html [cnet.com]

    It provides additional details, including: "And in May 2008, Google changed its user interface, breaking gMove compatibility and forcing the company to provide customer refunds."

    captcha: nonzero (that's almost like LimitNone)

  • I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by srowen (206154) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @11:10AM (#23935199)

    TFA does not say there was a "non-compete" agreement which would be crazy to agree to, since in fact this is easy to duplicate. It talks vaguely of "assurances". The CEO claims their technology was "stolen" but then the article says a competing product was released, not theirs.

    Looks like they had the benefit of big-time promotion *for almost a year* before Google had anything else to show. They made quite a bit of money they wouldn't have otherwise I am sorry... sounds like someone was hoping for a payday and is just angry now.

  • More than likely a developer involved in both project re-used is own developed code. We have a guy in the office that has been caught re-using coded packages from his previous employer. It is pretty easy to spot as not his work and ask him if understands what it is doing and often ask him re-write it. The case will did the developer back up his code and then transfer it tog Google? Or did he just come over to Google and re-write the code from scratch? I would hope the developer leveraged his experiences
  • Googles Rep (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Digital End (1305341)
    To start with, I have to say I'm siding with google on this... as all of the above posts have stated.

    I just wanted to point something out. This is the difference of Googles rep and MS's rep. If MS did this, we'd be all over them searching for everything we could slant in their favor.
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @12:26PM (#23936509) Homepage Journal
    Google is a publicly traded company and as such here's what's important to them.....

    Making money for their stockholders.

    Despite all the happy horse hockey about "Do no evil", Google needed to amend it's mission statement once it became a publicly trade company to "We do less evil than everyone else"

    Google is going to do what is best in their corporate interest. Surprised? Don't be. It's business
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @12:27PM (#23936529) Homepage

    LimitNone's only hope is language in a written contract promising that Google won't compete with their product. Absent that, they're toast. Let's face it, their product isn't much. There's nothing in it that hasn't been well-known and in wide use for the last 30 years, and thus can't be a trade secret. Google obviously knows their own formats and APIs for loading messages into gMail. In fact they had to have created them before LimitNone's product existed, if they hadn't LN couldn't have created their product at all. The file formats and things like Exchange server APIs aren't exactly secret. Copying all messages from one to the other is the same basic copy loop that's been used for 40-some years: open input; while not eof(input) do read(input); write(output); done; close input. A loop to iterate through folders and some recursion to handle subfolders, I was doing that in high school. Look and feel? LimitNone's probably using the standard tree-view widgets provided by the system, so yes Google's app will look like theirs because both of them look like the standard system widgets. That's assuming the apps allow message-level selectivity, if they limit it to folder-level or "everything on this server", the UI's even more generic. And the concept of importing mail messages from an old client into a new one? Hardly new. Mail clients have been importing other client's mailboxes since as long as there've been mail clients. Thunderbird has been doing it IIRC for a couple years now, well before LimitNone's product was created.

    LimitNone's problem is that they're trying to charge $29 for a basic one-shot function that comes standard with most mail clients and that frankly could be hacked up by a single programmer in a few weeks of full-time work.

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