back to article Opera sues designer for leaking trade secrets to Mozilla

Norwegian browser maker Opera Software has filed suit against Trond Werner Hansen, one of its former developers, alleging that Hansen took trade secrets with him when he went to work with Opera rival Mozilla. As first reported by The Next Web, Hansen worked at Opera from 1999 through 2006. There he led design and UI …

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  1. Steve 129
    Unhappy

    Hate to say this... but...

    When you work for a company ALL ideas are theirs unless specifically excluded in your contract.

    Saying "I thought of this when out for lunch" simply does not cut it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Hate to say this... but...

      Perhaps in the USA - but Europe occasionally has worker's rights.

      Some places in the US (Massachusetts especially) lean so heavily toward the corporation that if you worked on software at company A then any use of a computer at company B is regarded as infringement.

      It got so bad that many silicon valley firms wouldn't hire anyone who had ever worked in Ma.

      1. 1Rafayal
        Thumb Up

        Re: Hate to say this... but...

        I disagree, in the EU, if you come up with an idea on company time then it pretty much belongs to them.

        That is why it is so important for dev types to not work on their own projects when at work.

        If I came up with a fantastic new way of doing something with software whilst on company time and then went ahead and sold it, then the company can legally assert that the whole shebang belongs to them

        Of course, the company first has to prove you came up with the idea on their time, which is where the whole things starts to fall apart...

        I dont think it is as bad as over in the US though. And lets face it, if you have come up with some ideas whilst at work that you then adapt for your own projects, the whole thing turns into a bit of a farce.

        Having said all that, I am probably completely wrong, its all just so confusing...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @1Rafayal

          Nope, your about on the nail.

          Most contracts will stipulate that any code, plans or even ideas proposed/utilized to a company will become their intellectual property. Of course making this stand up in court is a whole different matter. Like 90% of Microsoft's User Agreement, its completely unenforceable :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hate to say this... but...

        Seriously? Worker's rights? In what world does working for a company give you the right to run off with company secrets and sell them to a different company?

      3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Hate to say this... but...

        "... if you worked on software at company A then any use of a computer at company B is regarded as infringement."

        Codswallop! I don't know of any state that allows a company to restrict an individuals ability to earn a living and Massachusetts still hasn't really figured out a solid trade secrets law presumably it has a problem with the UTSA which has been adopted by 46 other states. MA often allows non-compete clauses in employment contracts based on trade secrets but California doesn't allow them at all and hasn't since the late 1800s while also not recognizing such contracts originating in another state except under very limited circumstances. In short, there is no reason along trade secret lines that a CA company wouldn't hire someone who worked in MA.

      4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Hate to say this... but...

        "but Europe occasionally has worker's rights"

        Really, do you have some examples?

    2. keithpeter
      Boffin

      Re: Hate to say this... but...

      "When you work for a company ALL ideas are theirs unless specifically excluded in your contract."

      How can Opera claim ownership of the designer's general approach?

      It will be interesting to see how this one turns out. EU law isn't as barmy as US law but I'm a bit hazy about Norway's civil law system.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hate to say this... but...

        @keithpeter

        "How can Opera claim ownership of the designer's general approach?"

        Because he was paid by Opera to do those designs? Seriously, if paying for getting people to do designs does not give the company ownership of them how on earth is any company going to be able to own anything?

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Brain functionality fail

      But how do you prevent yourself using knowledge that you gained in any experience anywhere?

      If somebody learns how to do long division/tie their shoe laces/type with more than two fingers/index into an array/code for matrix multiplication/learn that yellow on white is effectively invisible, no quantity of non-disclosure contracts is going to prevent your brain using that knowledge in another environment, unless you have some sort of mind-wipe technology like Jonny Mnemonic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Brain functionality fail

        @J.G.Harston

        "But how do you prevent yourself using knowledge that you gained in any experience anywhere?"

        But this isn't about general knowledge. This is about the guy selling specific technologies developed during his time at Opera to a competitor.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Re: Brain functionality fail

          "This is about the guy selling specific technologies developed during his time at Opera to a competitor."

          No it's not. At least, according to him. Any particular reason you don't like "innocent until proven guilty"? Oh, that's right, you're an AC on the Internet.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: Brain functionality fail

            No reason to assume Opera is lying and he is telling the truth. Logically speaking either, neither, or both could be lying. We all need more facts before jumping to ANY conclusions.

  2. Greg J Preece

    So these are ideas that he punted, Opera rejected, and then years later Mozilla accepted? And these are somehow Opera "trade secrets", despite them rejecting the ideas as useful?

    Arseholes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No

      Opera are working on those same features behind closed doors, whilst he is presenting them as part of the Mozilla browser.

      Opera never rejected anything, and if he is claiming otherwise, then he has changed his story (again).. He is already trying to manipulate emotions with things like this:

      "he has been forced to return to Norway, where he lives with friends and family and has been selling off assets to support himself."

      What a knob...

  3. asdf Silver badge
    Trollface

    tempest in a teacup

    Yep he harmed Opera and threatened their rounding error of market share. Seriously the guy can probably pay the actual economic damages with a couple of paychecks. The only reason either company has any money is because they get paid off by the worlds biggest ad company Google.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: tempest in a teacup

      You mean, just like Mozilla is making money from Firefox, and Google from Chrome?

      Opera isn't being paid off by Google. They have an agreement with Google where Google gets search traffic, and pays Opera for that search traffic. Opera has other similar deals, such as the one with Yandex in Russia.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: tempest in a teacup

        Hey check out the AC from Opera's PR department.

        >Opera isn't being paid off by Google. They have an agreement with Google where Google gets search traffic, and pays Opera for that search traffic. Opera has other similar deals, such as the one with Yandex in Russia.

        You hardly invalidated what I said and smartly stayed away from the market share argument. Yes yes Google and others pay for the search traffic but my point was simply we are talking chump change so this is hardly the big deal Samsung vs Apple is. Especially now that Opera is nothing but another fancy skinned Webkit browser.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: tempest in a teacup

          So what if we are talking chump change? Who said this is as big a deal as Samsung vs. Apple?

          How is the technology used to build the Opera browser relevant?

          1. asdf Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: tempest in a teacup

            >So what if we are talking chump change?

            See title of my post (hint: bold text above this post).

            >Who said this is as big a deal as Samsung vs. Apple?

            I was simply pointing out the obvious. Do you need a reference?

            >How is the technology used to build the Opera browser relevant?

            Because Opera has always been somewhat irrelevant (see market share and bold text again) and now they don't even have a unique rendering engine they are completely irrelevant.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: tempest in a teacup

              Someone stealing your technology and selling it to a competitor hardly seems like tempest in a teacup.

              Whether Opera is relevant or not is... irrelevant. Never mind their dominant position on mobile and their more than 300 million active users.

              How does a rendering engine make someone relevant or irrelevant?

              1. asdf Silver badge

                Re: tempest in a teacup

                Total operating revenue 2012 (USD)

                Opera - 216.0 million

                Rovio (maker of Angry Birds) - 199.382 million

                This is their peer. Lmao.

                >Someone stealing your technology and selling it to a competitor

                Funny haven't seen a court judgement yet saying its so. I just see a lot of Operas goodwill being flushed down the toilet.

                >How does a rendering engine make someone relevant or irrelevant?

                If you are nothing but a fancy skin around an open source rendering engine it undercuts the whole argument of owning valuable IP that dominates the market.

  4. Don Jefe
    Thumb Up

    Agreed. Opera does more on the litigation front than on development. If there's a browser related lawsuit that makes the news it is 99.5% of the time Opera. They should really pick a discipline and stick with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don Jefe fails miserably

      Really? What other litigation has Opera been engaging in, then? What other lawsuits can you mention? Please mention at least five of them, and include sources.

    2. Belardi

      Well.. .were is the proof of all these lawsuits you speak of?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "With supporters like you, who needs Bill Gates?"

        They're Don's trade secrets.

  5. Tom Maddox Silver badge
    Trollface

    Opera UI trade secrets

    After the Mozilla team stopped laughing, I'm sure they thanked Hansen for advising them what not to do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Opera UI trade secrets

      Except Mozilla made an entire video about the stuff they stole from Opera. Epic fail on your part.

      1. Belardi

        Re: Opera UI trade secrets

        But you don't need a video to see that. Just run firefox 4.x (yeah, like there really is ff version 12) and run it alongside Opera 10+.

        firefox copied Opera... And MS copied ff for their IE9.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Opera UI trade secrets

          Everyone has copied ideas in some form, the problem is everyone wants tabs because its a good idea (Looking at you Outlook, Notes has had tabs for years GIVE ME TABS!). Seperate windows are inefficent (Much like my spelling).

          I can't see Opera getting much out of this apart from some news space

          1. Tom 13

            Re: Seperate windows are inefficent

            Depends on your working style. I frequently have multiple windows of the same app open, comparing information for one screen with something in another. I also prefer to have menus where I can see what is what as opposed to hidden context sensitive crap.

            Choice is what is critical for this. The skin on the app should be configurable so either you or I can work efficiently with the application.

  6. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    All your browser belong to us.

    Well, somebody needed to say it...

    1. Tom 13
      Devil

      Re: All your browser belong to us.

      Shouldn't that be:

      All Ur bR0wz3rs Be1ong 2 uS!

  7. Aoyagi Aichou
    Facepalm

    Facebrick

    "Opera browser's UI was too heavy and needed to be simplified."

    Yep, because that's why people use Opera. Being simple.

  8. nsld
    WTF?

    Slightly confused

    So telling someone to make a browser less clunky, more user friendly and simple is in some way the intellectual property of Opera?

    UX simplification is exactly what it says on the tin, if as a UX person you are a fan of simplification then ultimately all the work in one area (browsers) will distil down to the same basic end result, a simple way to manage web browsing.

    To qualify for damages you have to wonder what damage has actually been done given that opera has a market share of 2 odd percent and seems to be going nowhere in the overall grand scheme of things.

    If Mozilla have used the ideas they are claiming have been infringed then how come Opera are not suing them? Or is it simply easier to go after the individual than it would be to go after someone with significantly more market share?

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Slightly confused

      Very well said and I notice the Opera PR AC troll hasn't replied to this post.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Slightly confused

      True, but here's the catch and the one time OSS is at a disadvantage to closed source: Opera can read all the source code for Mozilla. So if they see code there which matches code used to implement something they regard as a trade secret, they get to file for it.

      Personally I think the specific infringement needs to be part of filing charges. I don't know how to structure it so the Trade Secrets stay secret, but there ought to be a way to do it. In this case, I would think the previous NDA should be sufficient.

  9. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Oh Dear

    Looks like us Opera Fanboys are completly outnumbered by the Mozilla Fanboys :(

  10. Old Handle
    Thumb Down

    Now I want to sue him too

    For infecting Firefox with that minimal UI nonsense.

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