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$25 Million Lawsuit Claims Google Stole Earth Sky Layer Idea
engine




msg:3578043
 5:56 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)


A former Google contractor is suing the company for allegedly stealing from him the idea for the Sky layer in Google Earth.

Jonathan Cobb claims in his suit that he disclosed the idea for a Google Sky idea in internal e-mail discussion groups when he worked at Google as a contractor beginning in 2006.

Lawsuit Claims Google Stole Earth Sky Layer [news.com]

 

LifeinAsia




msg:3578067
 6:28 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

For the most part, ideas from employees are owned by the company. I'd say (as a non-lawyer) that it boils down to the wording of his specific contract, but I'd guess that it has some type of wording that gives Google ownership of any ideas discussed on its internal networks.

Lord Majestic




msg:3578072
 6:32 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Surely ideas per se are not patentable and not copyrightable? If he says he suggested this in internal list while working for Google, then really he has little chance to get any compensation whatsoever, certainly not if he was in the UK.

Tastatura




msg:3578077
 6:38 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

...when he worked at Google as a contractor beginning in 2006

in part, law suit outcome will be influenced by the papers (contract terms, nda, etc.) he signed when he became contractor for G. It'll be interesting to see if they contain provision for situation like this (would be surprised if they don't)

gpilling




msg:3578106
 6:54 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

A nuisance lawsuit, so that Google will settle out of court before having to go to trial in front of a jury

mikedee




msg:3578134
 7:12 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

You can't steal an idea anyway, the actual complaint is here

[docs.justia.com...]

He has no chance.

theBear




msg:3578135
 7:13 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Nuisance lawsuit, not exactly, and I wouldn't expect Google to settle.

Be very careful with what you do and say while under a contract. The last I knew it can all be used by the party you are under contract with unless there are specific clauses to the contrary. But IANAL, just a woodland critter.

kapow




msg:3578159
 7:46 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

You can't steal an idea
So what is 'intellectual copyright'?
However if I pay someone to work for me I own what they do as part of their job (don't I?). Whats the point of hiring say a programmer to build my big idea (or help me work it out, then build it) - if they later claim it as their own? Can they claim all their emails (written at work for work) and charge me for using them - I don't think so.

Lord Majestic




msg:3578167
 7:57 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

So what is 'intellectual copyright'?

There is no such thing (AFAIK). There is "intellectual property", but ideas can't be that - a particular implementation of an idea can be copyrighted or even patented.

Asking for $25 mln for an idea of adding sky is ridiculous in any case - even if he is right, can he prove that Google made so much money from that idea? Chances are very good that Google Earth is a loss leader anyway without any hope to be ever profitable, and even if it is then this Sky idea surely does not contribute that much.

In the UK such a lawsuit won't make it far.

LifeinAsia




msg:3578169
 8:00 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm sure the guy's lawyers will try to argue that the idea was outside the scope of the work for which he was contracted, and therefore he didn't relinquish any right to the idea. And I'm sure that Google's lawyers will argue that once he put the idea on Google's *internal* discussion board, he did relinquish any rights to it.

creative craig




msg:3578173
 8:05 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Gotta love section 20:

Such actions represent a violation of Google publicised corporate motto: "Do no evil"

LifeinAsia




msg:3578182
 8:24 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Wait- am I missing something? He posted on Google Groups and considered it an "internal" discussion board?

purplecape




msg:3578234
 10:10 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I wonder how Google has already been "stubbornly litigious," as the complaint claims?

They have a difficult case to prove--for one thing, they'll have to show that the sky layer isn't a natural and obvious extension of the original concept, and that Cobb was the only person to have this idea.... Then there are the terms of his contract with Google.

mcavic




msg:3578258
 10:50 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

$25 million is completely outrageous. They should settle and pay him what the idea is really worth.

jomaxx




msg:3578274
 10:58 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree with most of the previous posters, it's a nuisance suit with no chance of succeeding if Google fights it.

Even taking the complaint at face value, it would have been a much better idea to keep his mouth shut instead of broadcasting it to one of the biggest tech companies on earth -- but of course the idea had no value to him anyways. What's he going to do, create Cobb Sky?

mikedee




msg:3578329
 12:20 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

There is "intellectual property"

Intellectual property is just a term used by people when they want to threaten generally. If you want to sue someone over IP then you have to choose a proper law.

[ipo.gov.uk...]

This page shows a few types of right which are classed as IP, all of them require you to actually make something before you can have $25 million.

According to his complaint Google asked for any ideas so he gave them but was unhappy because they didn't pay him anything. He believes he has some unwritten contract because Google held a competition to find new and innovative mobile apps and were offering $10 million as first prize. He didn't write anything but thinks he has suffered because he would have sold the idea to someone else for like ... loads.

Lord Majestic




msg:3578331
 12:23 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Intellectual property is just a term used by people when they want to threaten generally.

Yes, but there is no such term as "intellectual copyright", that was my point - I hereby claim copyright on it and anyone who reads it owes me gazillions of dollars, so there :)

walkman




msg:3578356
 1:02 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have an idea for google to make a better search engine. They should show more relevant terms, make it easier to navigate and better spot paid links.

Here I am on the record should they steal my idea.

IanKelley




msg:3578374
 1:42 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

a natural and obvious extension of the original concept

Exactly. Even if he were to somehow convince a court that Google didn't have a right to the idea, how could he ever prove that it was his posting specifically that the idea originated from? It's not as if it's a hard idea to have.

activeco




msg:3578656
 10:00 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't think he doesn't have a chance.
According to the plaintiff:
-They asked for an idea.
-They used his idea.
-He wasn't compensated.

If true, it's clearly wrong IMO, not really Google we know.

Defendant WorkforceLogic USA was retained by Defendant Google to hire
individuals in Georgia and elsewhere who could perform services benefiting Google .
Defendant WorkforceLogic took the application of Plaintiff to become its contract
employee . As part of the application process, Plaintiff was asked to disclose his
previously developed concepts and ideas, which Plaintiff did .
31 .
As part of the application process, Plaintiff disclosed his conception and idea for
Google Sky.
32 .
Defendants, jointly and severally, induced Plaintiff to present, advance and refine
his concept and idea while also working to deprive Plaintiff of any opportunity to receive
credit or compensation for it.

Among the features presented and proposed by Plaintiff for Google Sky were the
following:
(a) An interface similar to that of Google Earth with upgrades, including
the presentation of a Day and Night view and related space imagery;
(b) An interface with differing telescope control systems ;
(c) Access to and the ability to use GPS devices for positioning information ;
(d) Object tracking;
(e) Forecasting;
(f) The ability to subscribe to high resolution imagery from earth and space-based
telescopes ;
(g) Live image overlay and recording ability ; and
(h) Optical modulation measurement .
14 .
Defendant Google took the concepts and ideas originally presented by Plaintiff
and, without any notice or credit being extended to Plaintiff, used them as its own.

mikedee




msg:3578705
 11:38 am on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Can you name any industry/profession where people are paid based purely on their ideas? I cant think of any myself.

It looks like he is really upset because they did not put up a big banner saying 'Sky idea thought up and refined by the wonderful Jonathan Cobb'.

P.S. I don't think he will be getting many offers for contract work in the future.

activeco




msg:3578723
 12:23 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Can you name any industry/profession where people are paid based purely on their ideas?

This was not a simple idea, but rather a business plan, which could be fully copyrighted.

However what I miss here is whether he was really accepted as a Google contractor or not, or was he actually paid as a contractor in which case he has almost no chance to win.

Lord Majestic




msg:3578738
 12:50 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

This was not a simple idea, but rather a business plan

If it was a "business plan", then it was along the line of:

1. Add sky to Google Earth.
[2...n]
n+1. Profit!
n+2. Pay me $25 mln :)

LifeinAsia




msg:3578894
 4:36 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

[quote]Can you name any industry/profession where people are paid based purely on their ideas?[/qoute]
- think tanks
- economists

mikedee




msg:3578979
 5:45 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

This was not a simple idea, but rather a business plan, which could be fully copyrighted.

The complaint does not mention copyright at all, he is complaining about misappropriation of ideas and fraud. Even if it was a full blown business plan, there is no law against taking the idea without a contract being in place.

I thought think tanks and economists normally get paid for research and reports and advice generated from this. Anyone can take their ideas without paying them, you just cant copy their reports verbatim.

walkman




msg:3579183
 8:03 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

so if I ask you guys on how to do x, and I use your suggestions...what do I owe you LEGALLY?

jomaxx




msg:3579248
 8:54 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

There's no fixed amount. It varies depending on how valuable we retroactively judge our idea to have been.

activeco




msg:3579303
 9:28 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

If he was not contracted then the lawyers still have a valid approach.

Anyway, good stuff to know (from American Intellectual Property Law Association):

How To Protect and Benefit From Your Ideas [aipla.org]

However, ideas donít have to be patentable or copyrighted to be protectable.
For instance, except that practical applications thereof may be patentable, naturally occurring phenomena, laws of nature, mental steps, most printed matter, and mathematical formulas are not protectable under our patent laws. However, if an idea in one of those categories would be helpful or useful to others if known by them, you might be able to receive compensation for your idea by disclosing
it to them in confidence under a contract or the express understanding that, if they use the idea or disclose it to others, you will be compensated. Here you are treating your idea as confidential information or a trade secret.

In addition to patent, trademark or copyright protection, trade secret protection may also be available to an individual with an idea. If the idea relates to a process or technique, it is possible that the individual with the idea may be better off keeping the idea confidential and arranging to license or sell his idea as a trade secret.

jomaxx




msg:3579499
 12:29 am on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

by disclosing it to them in confidence under a contract or the express understanding that, if they use the idea or disclose it to others, you will be compensated

Well, exactly. If he had this kind of contract with Google, he wins. Else not.

Lord Majestic




msg:3579501
 12:32 am on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ok, let's suppose he wins and Google "stole" his idea. Just how much that idea can be worth? If he claims $25 mln, then surely this idea alone should have made Google much more than that? I doubt Sky layer made even $25 extra, if it's possible to estimate at all.

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