back to article Google-backed British startup ‘stole our code’, says US marketing firm

A British startup backed by Google stole code from a US startup after meeting them, a lawsuit alleges. Bounce Exchange filed the lawsuit in the federal court for the southern district of New York in December and is seeking $100m in damages for copyright infringement. The company describes its product as behavioural marketing …

  1. MJI Silver badge

    All the type of rubbish

    We do not want on websites, both can go away AFAIC

  2. Chemist

    "behavioural marketing automation software"

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh !!

  3. Chika
    WTF?

    Looking at this small sample of code, I really can't see that they have got much to go on unless they can prove that the source was taken in the first place. Just changing a few variable names isn't proof.

    If the desired objective is similar then there is always a possibility that the code will be similar. This could well be a case of a US group getting a little too greedy, looking for slights that didn't actually happen.

    Then again...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Halfmad

      Hard to tell who's at it to be honest but I can't help think that this is similar to musicians claiming stolen IP over a song someone heard years earlier that's similar, at least to some peoples ears.

      If they do win though I'd expect it to be a field day for litigation as other firms hop on the juicy band wagon.

    3. Bc1609

      Re: "I can't see that they have got much to go on"

      It's funny how different people can see different things in the same code - to me, it looks very much as though the code has been copied. Of course some similarities are to be expected, and of course if you compare any two sufficiently large bodies of code you'll find similar snippets (which is probably what we're seeing in the image above) - it would be hard to tell without seeing much larger segments of the code.

      But, speaking as someone who has pinched more than his fair share of code from StackOverflow, that snippet looks very suspicious.

    4. sysconfig

      @Chika

      Indeed. They are direct competitors. Bouncex was there first (allegedly) and they don't want another dog pissing in their territory.

      1. Ironclad

        Re: "I can't see that they have got much to go on"

        My first thought was also that it looks a bit incriminating.

        My second thought was why on earth you'd give a prospective reseller a copy of the source code? Perhaps once a contract was in place and the reseller has proven themselves but on the first visit?

      2. Tom 13

        Re: It's funny how different people can see different things

        Yes it is. It's been decades since I've done any programming, and even when I did, at best you could say I dabbled. As I look at the single snippet of code provided, I see similarity in naming conventions, not programming. As as someone who did professional tech writing once upon a time, that makes sense to me. You name the function to represent what it does, but customize it slightly. The actual block of code is completely different. But it's only a single block so not necessarily representative and there's no link to the actual complaint.

        As one of those crazy 'Merkins I have one question that isn't covered here: Did the plaintiff have the defendant sign a non-disclosure agreement AND a non-compete agreement? If not, it sucks to be plaintiff and the case should be summarily dismissed.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          @Tom 13 "sucks to be the plaintiff"

          Doesn't matter what they signed, if their code was stolen that's a copyright violation.

          Stealing their "idea", I agree, if they didn't make them sign something they're stupid. Since the article said they were a startup, probably it was the guys responsible for the startup who were uneducated in how to run a business and thought "we're smart, why do we need to hire a lawyer to tell us what we already know?"

      3. Chris Harden

        Re: "I can't see that they have got much to go on"

        If you trace it back you'll probably find they both stole the code from the same SO article which is why it's so similar.

      4. boltar Silver badge

        Re: "I can't see that they have got much to go on"

        " that snippet looks very suspicious."

        It does. But I'd be more interested in seeing the actual code than a few variable names. Nicking someone else variable and function names and changing them slightly isn't a copyright infringement. Copying the source line by line is.

      5. boltar Silver badge

        "Hard to tell who's at it to be honest but I can't help think that this is similar to musicians claiming stolen IP over a song someone heard years earlier that's similar, at least to some peoples ears."

        Men At Work got thoroughly screwed over with their Down Under track because of that. Some prior song (which to me sounded nothing like it) had some similarities which apparently meant theft. Judge was probably tone deaf.

        "If they do win though I'd expect it to be a field day for litigation as other firms hop on the juicy band wagon."

        As usual the only people who'll win will be the lawyers.

      6. Captain DaFt

        Whoo-Hoo!

        "If they do win though I'd expect it to be a field day for litigation as other firms hop on the juicy band wagon."

        Marketeering companies suing each other into oblivion to the detriment of their business model... We can only hope!

    5. Matthew Smith

      Re: All the type of rubbish

      From the Dominos Pizza campaign case study :

      "For new visitors, we wanted to capture their email addresses. We kept the campaign focus simple because each captured email address would create a number of new opportunities for future direct sales that could then be pursued through later email campaigns."

      Yep, they can all fuck right off.

    6. Rob Crawford

      Maybe if we searched the internet we would find what site Bounce carried out the original copy and pasted operation from

      The example looks very close to a chunk of tutorial code to me

    7. JHC_97

      I am assuming thats javascript so if they got a demo F12 would have got them the source.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "behavioural marketing automation software"

      The vultures are eating each other... Maybe Ad-sling is finally imploding???

      Watching legacy HBO series from Tom Hanks called 'From the Earth to the Moon'... Its a mix of The Right Stuff (1983) & Apollo 13 (1995)....

      Wow, the human race used to have such lofty honorable goals...

      Now we just fling Ads! ...

      How sad is that!

      1. Neanderthal Man

        Re: Now we just fling Ads

        Human race devolve back to crap-flinging monkeys. Pretty soon I be smartest guy on planet, just like "Idiocracy".

    9. David 132 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "behavioural marketing automation software"

      "behavioural marketing automation software"

      Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh !!

      Indeed. It's like watching a scorpion and a wasp fighting - I don't much care which one wins, and rather hope that both lose.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: "behavioural marketing automation software"

        It's like watching France and Scotland playing Rugby - I don't much care which one wins, and rather hope that both lose.

        FTFY

      2. Phil Endecott Silver badge

        Re: "behavioural marketing automation software"

        > I don't much care which one wins, and rather hope that both lose.

        I think I first heard that said re Mohamed al Fayed and Nigel Hamilton.

  4. John Lilburne Silver badge

    Google and its partners in copyright theft ...

    ... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO say it isn't so.

    1. ratfox Silver badge
      Meh

      Woah there

      "British startup backed by Google stole code" ≠ "Google and its partners in copyright theft"

      Using Google in the title of the article was clickbait. No need to rise to it.

      1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Woah there

        You are bending the definition of clickbait, ratfox.

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Woah there

          "You are bending the definition of clickbait, ratfox."

          The clue may be in the nick.

          1. ratfox Silver badge

            Re: Woah there

            What I mean is that the first word of the title was "Google", not because it was the most relevant thing about the story, but because people click more on any title containing the word Google.

            And John went one step further, and apparently deduced that it was Google's fault. Maybe he's thinking about the Oracle lawsuit.

  5. cmannett85

    "predicting when a user will leave (or “bounce off”) a site, triggering inducements to stay"

    They should both be fined $100m for crimes against humanity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hear. Hear.

      Maybe that should be doubled for each of them.

    2. Captain DaFt

      "They should both be fined $100m for crimes against humanity."

      Bah, they'd probably count that as cost of doing business.

      Lock all senior management from both companies in a room for a month with Bill Hick's rant on a continuous loop.

      When you let them out, ask them, "Are you ready to get back to work?"

      If they say yes, shoot them, it's the only humane thing to do.

  6. heyrick Silver badge

    CEO Radia told the FT that it had replaced the code anyway.

    Isn't that kind of admitting that the code used to be the same, then got "replaced"?

    1. Mike Shepherd

      Re: CEO Radia told the FT that it had replaced the code anyway.

      Hey...don't bother me. I stopped robbing banks last year.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Mushroom

    predicting when a user will leave (or “bounce off”) a site, triggering inducements to stay.

    That nearly made me barf my lunch. Bastards.

    1. Boothy

      Site tries to 'induce' me to stay.

      1. Copy Domain.

      2. Add domain to host file.

      3. Search for domain in chrome, and when it pops up in the results, click the 'block domain' option (provided by the 'Personal Blocklist (by Google)' add-on)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Site tries to 'induce' me to stay -> block

        Doesn't it depend on the inducement offered and method used? If you're just about to procrastinate and not buy a $THINGY today after all, but the website guesses this before you leave because of the way your mouse pointer moves, and so quickly offers x% off $THINGY's price if you buy within 10min, what would be so awful?

        I don't doubt that the website response could be awful, and probably will be awful, but I don't see that such inducements, or the mechanism by which they are offered, /has/ to be awful.

  8. Velv Silver badge
    Holmes

    Based on the small samples of code here it would be very difficult to prove they had been stolen. They are simple direct functions that really any basic programmer would come up with for the small function concerned.

    So unless they had their code lodged in escrow or some other secured format that proves the date of authoring beyond reasonable doubt then they're probably fishing.

    How did Bounce steal the Yieldify code anyway?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Write ethical code; low-average pay

    Write super scumbag code; high pay

  10. Peter Galbavy

    One of those rare occasions where I hope the lawyers take all the money.

    1. captain veg

      > How did Bounce steal the Yieldify code anyway?

      I think the allegation is the other way around, but I would guess the answer is right-click and select the View Source command. It looks a lot like client-side Javascript and thus entirely open-source.

      -A.

    2. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      If it's .Net code

      Then there are a bazillion de-compilers available. Telerik JustDecompile, for example, will convert DLLs to entire projects you can split back into Visual Studio easily. I suspect the same sort of thing exists for Java and most other bytecode based languages.

  11. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Happy

    Perhaps ...

    they both used the same Stack Exchange code?

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: Perhaps ...

      ..or cut&pasted from the same API documentation, then search&replaced renamed to make sense.

    2. captain veg

      Re: Perhaps ...

      Nah, no reference to jQuery.

      -A.

  12. Cynical Observer
    Trollface

    What I want to know...

    is how can I trigger it to serve up all the inducements quickly.

    I want my mega massive, once in a lifetime, never to be repeated, special offer - and I want it now!

    El Reg - Can We have a terrible twos tantrum icon?

  13. Chris King Silver badge

    "predicting when a user will leave (or “bounce off”) a site, triggering inducements to stay"

    The instant you push an intrusive ad in my face (especially if it's audio/video), or start messing about with analytics that bring the page to a halt, I'm gone. I'll happily tell them that for free so they don't have to piss money up the wall with services or software.

  14. Snowy
    FAIL

    Some of the allegedly copied code, from the complaint in the lawsuit

    What code I see no code or is the name of some function how called code?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best anecdote I remember...

    One guy designed a software, in DOS age, for several purposes, from HR management to you name it. He knew his students were a bit evil, and hid under his code a keyboard three-letter salute, like a ctrl-alt-del, programmed directly in Assembler.

    One of his students stole the code, renamed everything, but the style was there. Most importantly, the three finger salute.

    So, the teacher was there, in the sales stand, claiming it was his code, in front of his former student clients. So, he dared the student, and he bought the bluff. The teacher then, pressed the 3 finger salute, and lo and behold, his name appeared in the specially concealed credits window.

    It was glorious.

    1. Rob Crawford

      Re: The best anecdote I remember...

      I had a habit of including numeric constants which where MD5 hashes of certain strings, these constants where never used.

      But it was interesting to listen to a certain individual and an supposed expert Lotus Notes dev accounting for these constants in a Lotus script to track 2 ton newsprint rolls.

      They had taken my prototype application (constants and all) changed the colours, added a couple of images and claimed it as their own (adding no functionality whatsoever)

      The Notes expert claimed that they wrote it over 3 days ans I could have as I wasn't a registered developer.

      I almost felt bad asking them about the constants then supplying the strings to pass through the hashing package.

      No I didn't feel bad about their written warnings from HR

  16. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Yieldify Theft

      Er... because it's Google - the head ad-slinger, data-miner, etc. I wasn't sure Google and ethics could be used in the same sentence.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Yieldify Theft

        "I wasn't sure Google and ethics could be used in the same sentence."

        "Hi, we're Google. Our highly evolved ethics won't let us murder you for profit... yet."

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Yieldify Theft

      They work in "behavioural marketing", which sounds like "long con" to me. I thought in this case poor ethics were the best ethics one could hope for (No ethics being far more common).

  17. channel extended
    Coat

    Scumm eating Scumm

    Lawyers rejoice!!!

    Now I have a perfect example of evolution in action to show all my Republican friends.

    I'm no scientist, but isn't Java a write once sue everywhere language?

  18. adnim Silver badge

    Want people to stay

    on your website... Has interesting, relevant and useful content ever entered into your tiny algorithms?

  19. x 7 Silver badge

    I take it the girl in white in the middle of the photo is the brains of the operation? Why else would she be the centre of attention?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best thing is that if you take the code snippet from the linked compaint and strip out both sets of namespacing, you link straight back to a SO question from 2011 where they say they got the snippet from an opensource library written in 2009. So I'm guessing both companies copied it from the same place.

  21. Skymonrie
    Stop

    Copied code?

    Most of those lines look like:

    - Native hooks you use in almost every JavaScript app which listens to the DOM

    - People programming to a common coding standard

    I thought this approach was the way people are encourage to write code? Would they have been happier if the definitions were meaningless to humans like we used to get? temp1, temp2, temp11...

    I just did a quick google search for setbouncecookie and came across a GitHub project for exactly what BOTH of these projects do, is the author "carlsednaoui/ouibounce" going to sue both?

    I have a feeling this case will go on for too long as law simply doesn't understand code...Winter is coming...

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