Don't be evil.
According to a lawsuit filed on June 28, 2012, Google's "Hangouts" are stolen from CamUp's original idea, which they shared with Google months before the Google+ feature was added, reports Courthouse News Service.
For those of you who don't speak geek, or don't spend time on every social network in existence, Google+ is Google's attempt at challenging Facebook's dominance in the social networking arena. One of its main features, in addition to the standard photo sharing and status blurb features that all social networks seem to have, is the "Hangouts" group video-chatting feature, reports Courthouse News.
According to the complaint, CamUp had the same group video-chat idea, already available to the public, before Google's competing product came out. Even worse, they allegedly discussed the idea with Google representatives at a tech trade show and in meetings. After the meetings, CamUp awaited further word from Google that never came.
They did, however, allegedly experience a surge in Internet traffic from Mountain View, California. The visits were not through a search engine. They were reportedly direct hits, meaning the user manually went to CamUp's website. The visits averaged 40 minutes in length, while their normal visitor only stayed 1-4 minutes.
Google is located in Mountain View. And according to the lawsuit, a month after the traffic spikes, Google released Hangouts.
The claimed similarities don't stop there. On early versions of Hangouts, users could click a button on a YouTube page to "Watch with friends." The placement of the button and the button's label mirrored that of CamUp's mockups which were presented to Google employees months earlier.
CamUp's lawsuit is alleging a number of technical claims involving trade dress and copyright infringement. We won't go into the intricacies of trade dress law here, but it often comes down to a battle of grey areas. If Google had simply implemented a video chat feature after CamUp released their site, there might not be a viable lawsuit. A mere idea of "video chat" is not enough to sustain a claim. Yahoo, AOL, Skype, Facebook, and Google all have video chats.
Instead, CamUp will have to show more, such as copied user-interface elements (the alleged 'Watch With Friends' button) or code.
Whether or not this results in a large judgment or settlement for CamUp, you have to wonder what all of these lawsuits are doing to Google's reputation. They used to be the ultimate hip start-up. Now, they are fighting Apple over infringing patents and their flagship smartphone, manufactured by Samsung, was just pulled from the market due to other allegations of intellectual property theft.
Is Google becoming the new Microsoft?
- Talk to a York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Google stole sharing idea for Hangouts and YouTube, lawsuit claims (GigaOm)
- Google Earmarks $500M to Settle DOJ's Google Advertising Probe (FindLaw's In House Blog)
- Google Fined $650K by Court for Making Google Maps Free (FindLaw's Legal Grounds Blog)