Former contractor sues Google for $25m
Claims it stole his idea for Google Sky
A former Google contract worker is claiming $25m damages from the search monolith for allegedly stealing his idea for Google Sky - the heavenly Google Earth feature that allows users to navigate the universe.
In the lawsuit filed last Wednesday in Atlanta's Northern District Court of Georgia, plaintiff Jonathan Cobb claims that in 2006, when working as a contractor hired through WorkforceLogic USA, he "convened an internal Google Groups email discussion group" in which he "presented, advanced, and refined the Google Sky concept and idea".
The suit explains: "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... Such actions represent a violation of Defendant Google's publicized corporate motto 'Do No Evil'."
According to InformationWeek, Cobb further claims that Google took his idea "despite the fact that [he], when making application for contractor work with Defendant WorkforceLogic USA, made disclosure of his previously developed Sky idea and concept."
Specifically, Cobb states he proposed to the email discussion group: "(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."
Cobb's suit also names WorkforceLogic as a defendant. Neither it nor Google responded to requests for comment, InformationWeek notes. ®
It is the same concept you often see in movie world. All he can hope is his name in credentials and maybe a token payment but even that is goodwill by company. It is a contract issue and if not specifically stated in contract then it is a non-issue. And when working always document the background of any idea. It protects both you and the company - that way they don't think (should not think) owning the idea but they will own the work. The problem often comes when you have been working a long time and know or at least have knowledge of a lot. Some ideas which seem new are in reality very old but the players are new / uneducated / unexperienced who have never heard of those and may try to own them. I personally have had a couple of those - then you just have patiently go back and explain how it works, it often helps to have customers lawyer included so they can explain it to the customer in what ever terms they use in that company. Just don't let them intimidate you, they will try!
@ Justin Clift
You need to be careful of any agreements you sign. Especially if you do any subcontract work with IBM. ;-)
As a subcontractor or an employee of a company, just because you do something on your own machines and on your own time, doesn't mean that the company you're working for can't claim that they own your "idea". They can make the claim by showing that you came across your idea because of the work that they were doing elsewhere within the company and that its possible that you had access to it.
Just on what was said in the article, and the quotes about prior art, the guy has a snow ball chance in hell. Even if he had mentioned his existing work on this idea at the start of his contract, the fact that he openly discussed this in an internal google forum kills his case.
What a Maroon! Maybe he had Paris Hilton syndrome?
It he wanted to keep his idea then he should have kept his mouth shut
Says it all, really.
You enter a contract with a company -- I presume its in California -- then you get three or four pages of boilerplate along with the bit with the signatures. If you read it you discover they own you body *and* your soul, the only exceptions being for acknowledged standard techniques (being able to write code, for example) and any inventions or other proprietary tools you list on the sheet that comes with the contract.
I've invented tons of stuff over the years. One or two things may even have been original ideas (i.e. like everyone else I've reinvented numerous wheels). If I got $25mil for every half-baked idea I'd be a very wealthy person...