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.
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.
|...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)
A nuisance lawsuit, so that Google will settle out of court before having to go to trial in front of a jury
You can't steal an idea anyway, the actual complaint is here
He has no chance.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
Gotta love section 20:
|Such actions represent a violation of Google publicised corporate motto: "Do no evil" |
Wait- am I missing something? He posted on Google Groups and considered it an "internal" discussion board?
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.
$25 million is completely outrageous. They should settle and pay him what the idea is really worth.
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?
|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.
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.
|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 :)
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.
|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.
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 .
As part of the application process, Plaintiff disclosed his conception and idea for
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 |
(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;
(f) The ability to subscribe to high resolution imagery from earth and space-based
(g) Live image overlay and recording ability ; and
(h) Optical modulation measurement .
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.
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.
|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.
|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.
n+2. Pay me $25 mln :)
[quote]Can you name any industry/profession where people are paid based purely on their ideas?[/qoute]
- think tanks
|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.
so if I ask you guys on how to do x, and I use your suggestions...what do I owe you LEGALLY?
There's no fixed amount. It varies depending on how valuable we retroactively judge our idea to have been.
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. |
|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.
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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