SAN JOSE (CN) – Be In, a New York-based tech company, claims in court that Google stole its technology for a multi-user, live video chat platform to use in the Google+ social network, after promising to keep the technology confidential.
Be In sued Google and its United Kingdom head of business markets Richard Robinson in Federal Court. It accuses them of infringing copyright and trade dress, misappropriating trade secrets and civil conspiracy.
Be In, incorporated in 2008, creates online social media platforms that allow groups to interact through chat and webcam. It claims that its representatives met with Google’s Robinson in May 2011 to discuss a business collaboration.
After Google agreed to prevent “any unauthorized use or disclosure of confidential information provided from Be In to Google,” Be In provided Google with a live demonstration of its CamUp product, according to the complaint.
Be In says it proposed a “Watch Your Friends” button for Google’s YouTube pages, allowing users to launch a CamUp session directly from YouTube. The technology had not been shared or released to the public before the meeting with Google, and Be In provided Robinson with business and marketing strategies “for monetizing the CamUp product and ‘Watch Your Friends’ button,” according to the complaint.
Be In claims Robinson never told them that Google was independently developing anything like CamUp.
After the meeting, it claims, Robinson did not respond to follow-up communications, but Be In says it saw “a dramatic spike in user traffic to the CamUp site, in particular from Mountain View, California, where Google is headquartered,” and these visitors stayed on the site “longer than the typical user.”
Be In says these visits averaged almost 40 minutes, much longer than the average CamUp user’s visit of 1-4 minutes.
“Also, the traffic from these locations was direct, as opposed to having been directed from a search engine or via links from other sites. Upon information and belief, these CamUp website visits were from Google employees who logged on with the intent of studying the CamUp site prior to their improper launch of Google+ and the Hangouts feature,” according to the complaint.
Google released Google+ in June 2011 with a feature called Hangouts – which Be In says looks and feels similar to CamUp – and embedded a feature called “Watch With Your Friends” on YouTube.
Be In claims that feature is “virtually identical in text and overall appearance to the CamUp button that Be In proposed to Google” at their meeting a month earlier.
Be In claims its complaint contains a screenshot of a YouTube video with a “Watch With Your Friends” button that is identical to its CamUp button, but Google has since altered the button to remove the identical language discussed in the May 2011 meeting.
Be In claims the buttons had identical language, with Be In’s CamUp button saying “Watch with your friends on CamUp” and Google’s Hangouts button saying “Watch with your friends. Start a Google+ Hangout,” according to the complaint.
“The Google+ Hangouts feature also includes several elements of Be In’s proprietary trade dress. Hangouts attempts to replicate the overall look and feel of the CamUp platform, specifically the inclusion of several video chat screens directly underneath a main screen containing video or other media,” Be In states in its complaint.
“Google and Mr. Robinson have acquired, disclosed or used plaintiff’s trade secrets through improper means by utilizing Be In’s idea to include a CamUp ‘Watch with your friends’ button under each YouTube video, as well as utilizing Be In’s business plan and strategy for implementing and monetizing these video chats,” the complaint states.
Be In claims that Google’s theft of its proprietary technology has cost it more than $75,000. It claims it has had rights to CamUp since its introduction, and was granted a U.S. copyright in June this year.
“Google had access to and willfully copied Be In’s CamUp web video chat platform in its Google+ Hangouts feature,” the complaint states.
Be In also seeks damages for trade dress infringement for nonfunctional elements of CamUp, including a large window containing media, placement of logos on the top left, similar white and gray color palette and several windows of webcam participants beneath the large window.
Be In claims Google “knowingly created and is deliberately using screens in its Google+ Hangouts platform that are confusingly similar to CamUp with willful and callous disregard to plaintiff’s rights to enforce its trade dress.”
Be In an injunction, an accounting and monetary damages.
It is represented by Joseph Addiego III with Davis Wright Tremaine, of San Francisco.