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back to article Former contractor sues Google for $25m

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 …

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Anonymous Coward

John Walkers Earth Viewer

Presumably he's pissed off at Google for not renewing his contract since he has no rights to work he did during his contract and they do. My guess is he's doing a LOOK AT ME lawsuit to express his anger.

But also it's not new, see John Walkers earth view software (John Walker of Autocad fame):

http://www.fourmilab.ch/earthview/vplanet.html

So he's not going to win.

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prior art?

Can't really argue prior art when stellarium has been around for years http://www.stellarium.org/ so it wasn't this blokes idea at all, originally.

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Gold badge

Motto violation?

"Such actions represent a violation of Defendant Google's publicized corporate motto 'Do No Evil'."

Is that really a quote from the lawsuit? If that's the best they can come up with, then presumably the contract between WorkforceLogic and Google does the usual thing of saying that any good ideas you come up with whilst in our pay belong to us. Besides which, if you describe your idea as "like Google Earth" then you're going to have a hard time claiming IP rights against Google, no?

Stunning! We need a "cricket bat over the head" icon. That's how stunning it is.

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violation of Defendant Google's publicized corporate motto

As if it hasn't already been bent, if not broken...

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Boffin

@Anonymous Coward

Might be a bit harsh to assume he has no rights to IP/work he did during his contract.

It should depends upon the terms of his contract, jurisdiction it's in, etc.

Thinking this because I'm a professional freelance contractor, and I'm *very* careful to ensure anything I create *in my own time* is owned by myself rather than whomever I happen to be officially contracting for at the time.

This person may or may not have done the same, and his jurisdiction may or may not allow that separation, etc.

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Pirate

LART icon needed

agreed with Mr. Hagan. someone requires adjustment with clue bat.

if you are a contractor, submit a proposal (paper trail, primacy of idea). if you convene a meeting at a company like Google, and describe something that works somewhat like the previously mentioned Stellarium, but online, expect to have your idea implemented, minus you.

Google employs some very bright people. why would they pay a contractor to do something they can probably implement faster and better in-house? since the idea has much prior art, they can rightfully claim it is not novel, and hang you out to dry.

he can't be a very experienced contractor, if he thought a corporate slogan would protect him. most companies take ideas from outside and implement them in-house. this happens EVERY DAY. if you want them to use your services, bind them with a contract; otherwise, suck it up.

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Work for Hire?

Having done a good bit of contracting in the past, it would seem very unlikely that his contract did not include some heavy duty work-for-hire paragraphs, as well as provisions about intellectual property ownership and probably injunctions against independently soliciting clients of the hiring company.

Could he really be hoping for anything more than a "cheaper than litigating" type settlement?

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And on the same day,

approximately 1000 other people around the world had exactly the same unimaginative thought as Mr Jonathan Cobb. However, they were decent enough to (a) do something about it themselves or (b) content themselves with the thought that someone more capable would do it for them sooner or later, rather than whingeing that their 'unique idea' had been stolen.

Can we really expect to patent such everyday thoughts and then complain when another of our 5.999,999,999 neighbours has exactly the same thought?

Pa-leese

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Stop

Contractors

Oh for f*cks sake. As a former contractor myself I have absolutely no sympathy - This case should get chucked out on day 1.

Every contract I've ever had with city clients has included clauses in which I agree as the contractor that the client owns any inventions/whatever I come up with while working on their site using their resources. I'll be astonished if a company like Google has anything different in their standard contract.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't anyone read the rest of the article?

Specifically says:

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."

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Boffin

Read for Comprehension

He claimed to have disclosed to Google that he had this idea prior to working at Google.

Even companies with onerous 24/7 IP rules ask the potential employee to disclose prior ideas, for just this reason-- to avoid IP conflicts resulting in litigation.

Sounds like Google's main defense will have to be that prior art existed elsewhere and/or the idea isn't novel.

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Linux

@Justin

Unless you have a pretty unequivocal paper trail starting (and ending) before (or after) the contract period, you will be pretty hard-pressed to make a convincing case that said invention process occurred in *your own time*.

Sorry buddy, I tend to go with the majority here. This myth is busted.

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Simple Solution

When you're contracted out, concern yourself with the code at hand. Deal with your own code in your own time. If you should have a great idea while on a job, learn to keep your mouth shut in the workplace. No wuckin' forries!

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Paris Hilton

@ 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?

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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...

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Unique person

So this is the only IT contractor in the history of IT contracting who didn't have to sign a contract containing words to the effect "every thought your have during your contract with us belongs to us, every thought you ever will have belongs to us and every thought you can remember having belongs to us"?

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Alien

Same concept

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!

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