Google Getting Sued For $1 Billion Over Gmail Tool

Apparently Chicago-based firm LimitNone is suing Google for misappropriating the trade secrets of its "gMove" application that Google allegedly used to develop its Email Uploader.

The two-count lawsuit also claims Google violated Illinois' consumer fraud laws.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Kelley Drye & Warren LLP - "the same commercial litigation group which challenged Google over the company's online advertising system," SlashDot noted.

Details of the suit can be found in the press release sent out by the law firm.

“Its shocking that Google would engage in this type of conduct; particularly when the other party is a small software company that built its business specifically to help Google sell its existing and future products,” said Susan Greenspon of the Chicago office of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. “People need to realize that Google is just another large publicly traded corporation that will do whatever it takes to increase its revenue, even if that means risking its reputation among developers.”

The lawsuit alleges that in February, 2007 Google launched a suite of business software applications called Google Apps. The software was designed to challenge Microsoft's Office suite of products (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) which has 500 million users. According to the lawsuit, unlike Microsoft's products, Google Apps does not require a customer to download software onto his or her computer. Instead, Google Apps is a collection of web-based applications that reside on Google's servers. The lawsuit alleges at the time of its launch, however, Google did not have a workable way to enable Microsoft Outlook users to easily migrate their email (called gMail), calendar and contacts to Google's platform.

In early 2007, LimitNone developed just such a product to solve this problem and in March confidentially demonstrated the migration tool to senior members of the Google Apps team. According to the complaint, the Google Apps executives invited LimitNone to be part of the Google Enterprise Professional Program, to further develop and market the tool, and assured the company that it had no intention of developing a similar product.

The lawsuit alleges the tool, which was originally named “MY GRATE” was later renamed, at Google's insistence, “gMove”. Though the product retailed for $29, Google asked that LimitNone sell it to Google's customers for $19.

The lawsuit claims that throughout the remainder of 2007, Google promoted LimitNone and gMove and repeatedly told company executives that it would not develop a competing product. Google highlighted gMove on its website and introduced the company to its largest customers (including Proctor & Gamble, Intel, Orbitz, Morgan Stanley and Toys “R” Us). In addition, Google asked LimitNone to present the product to its technical sales personnel, to meet with the Google Open Source team and to continuously share updated versions of gMove.

In December, 2007, as detailed in the complaint Google told LimitNone that it would, in fact, be releasing a competing product and giving it away for free to its “Premier” customers. The lawsuit alleges that Google's product, called “Google Email Uploader” steals gMove's look, feel and functionality.

According to the complaint, Scott McMullan, a senior executive in the Google Apps partner program, told LimitNone that the potential for 50 million users – was “just too big to come from someone else” and that “this is how Google operates.”

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.