* Google employee comes up with an idea.
* They go and research the idea to check if there are any already existing companies which do it.
* If any are found, they meet and decide if they should buy the company, reinvent the idea, or that it isn't relevant.
* If, after investigation it is determined the company's tech isn't good enough, they will re-invent. Google has fairly strict tech requirements (no php, no shady licenses/ownership, no pirated stuff, etc.), so many companies don't pass.
* When they reinvent, they will do it "clean room" - ie. none of the people who reviewed the original company will be involved in the re-invention.
Sounds like Google's position is that they did do what was alleged, but that Attia had signed terms that made it legal.
What you described above is similar. Legal, but shitty. Some amount of information obtained under false pretenses is surely passed to the "clean room" team. Otherwise, why meet with the target at all?
Edit: This Verge story has pretty good detail on the backstory: https://www.theverge.com/2015/2/17/8048779/google-x-eli-atti...
I guess it gives the employees plausible deniability, but the company knows what it's doing.
The room can be clean, but what about everything else? There's more to software than the actual written code.
Part of the contract that both sides had to sign included a clause that everyone that was involved in the vetting process could not work on anything related technology wise for 18 months after if the deal fell through. (As Cisco had a competing product already that our company made).
This was more in cisco's favor as they have a full team that does M&A and handles this vetting. So the engineers involved on cisco's side in the vetting would likely not be key engineers on the product.
Large companies are accustomed to isolating people in M&A deals from the rest of the company to be able to prove clean room easily.
To over-simplify, Google probably just tunes the Hotspot JVM.
And now, of course, dart and flutter, on a new OS to replace the Linux underpinnings.
Although I’m sure Zuck would have turned them down regardless.
Would they pass up booking.com solely because it's Perl? The value there hasn't much to do with the plumbing.
I’d wager they’d take a closer look these days.
That said, there is a lot of poorly written legacy php code out there before frameworks really took off for that language.
It used to be a deal-killer. It's less of one now, but that's more because they'll acquire a company and have the staff re-invent the project in one of the "blessed" languages (Java, Python, C++, Go) while they run the old code on isolated VMs.
Actually, they do that even if the project was in one of the blessed languages. There's a tech stack my internal project uses that was acquired. We can't use it for certain sensitive data because it's considered "untrusted", which is kind of a pain. We're waiting for the re-write to stabilize so we can move over to that.
I have gotten out of the consulting world a bit, but for a while a php codebase meant I would double my estimated time on any quote I sent out. There is terrible php out there and most of it is vulnerable to every one of the OWASP top 10.
The only other thing I like other than PHP is something that's even dumber, and that's rewriting it in C++. That's the language I love, using it like C with classes instead of structs, and overloaded operators. That's all I ever wanted in life, really. Anything else? Let it mature 10 years, and not be pushed by one of these companies so super keen on being middlemen. Until then I'd rather derp around than buy into any of it.
I know I'm full of it, but here's how I write super secure code: I simply start with nothing, and add things slowly and deliberately. The program doesn't do anything I don't whitelist it to do. Orwell said if people can't write properly, they can't think properly... well, if you need a linter to learn to put a semicolon every single time, or a safe language [sic] to realize you're dealing with user input, can you code properly? I say this as the worst coder in the world, but I still wonder. Orwell probably had people who proofread for him which is where it all falls down, and I honestly don't consider myself a good programmer. I'm not above compiler warnings. But I don't believe in that to the extreme, I don't believe in looking at the GPS instead of the road.
Granted, that's all for things I intend to use for myself, with me being the only user, and I'm also fond of having a local authoritative copy and just syncing the changes one way, other than simple stats that get generated on the server. That way, not having critical data that could be stolen, I only have to worry about maybe rogue files getting dropped on the server. Didn't happen yet, I'm sure if I was paranoid I'd find a way to automate that. Bam, done. Not useful for a lot, but if everybody did that instead of flocking to yet another silo, just make up their own crummy stuff but be as careful as they can while they do it, there'd be a lot less tears over data breaches. Security through individuality.
Okay, I guess I am being argumentative, sorry. But it's not because I feel left behind, it's because I'm bored. Not at the moment, but with web dev trends, and Google. I just have to roll my eyes so much when I see screens of requirements to tinker with the same 3 tutorial type projects. If you need more than PHP to make something like, say, HN or blogspot.com, what are you even doing? And then look at the HTML source of just about any Google page. I don't care what they use to spit that out, I'm sure it's a million best practices used perfectly, but the result turns me off so badly. If that's super useful and fun, good for the people enjoying it, then they won't miss me doing it, too.
Are there other languages Google doesn't like?
So Google's defense isn't even that the substance of the accusations are false, but that they had the legal ability to do so?
Is this common behavior for Google, if the story is true?
This may be naive, but it seems downright illogical to act like that with a reputation as huge and important as Google's. I'd be concerned if I were a collaborator.
It depends on details of his contract. It's quite plausible his employment contract in "Project X" did say that he would transfer knowledge and ideas in exchange for money. It's pretty standard stuff.
In other words, it might not be exactly a slam dunk case. A racketeering charge seems pretty outrageous as well.
However if Google did these things (which looks like they did), it would make them look shady. Maybe legally in the clear but ethically like you said, it would seem they threw their reputation under the bus.
Maybe once companies are a certain size they think they are untouchable and say stuff like "Yeah this is shady, but we've got lawyers and PR people to handle this, no biggie"
And this is why maybe a charge like racketeering is nice move - it might not be winnable in court, but it is outrageous enough to damage Google's reputation. Had it been some mundane case over a minor legal term, we wouldn't have found out.
I'm curious about your comment that this is "pretty standard stuff." Do you mean in the context of Google X agreements? Do you transfer intellectual property to them as part of the employment contract?
Are you paid a flat fee? Do they pay a "kill" fee if Google X ultimately decides not pursue your idea and terminates your employment agreement?
> Are you paid a flat fee? Do they pay a "kill" fee if Google X ultimately decides not pursue your idea and terminates your employment agreement?
No idea, maybe someone could share. I would imagine it is a customized contract tailed for each contributor / collaborator. The important bit is it is a contract, so unless it is illegal any "kill" clauses could have been put in there.
I still turned it down and decided to go freelance instead because the contracts I had read had raised all kinds of personal questions.
As for 'your partner' - that seems pretty crazy, and I don't understand how that would hold up for a second in court.
As for 'perpetuity' - meaning - ideas you had long after employment? Or - that they'd own the ideas you give them while employed, forever. If the later, well, again I think that's somewhere near standard. If the former, that's beyond crazy and I think not even enforceable.
But the 'partner' bit alone seems beyond creepy because their lawyers are not stupid, they must know it's a pretty wobbly thing not likely to stand up in court, ergo it's kind of a scare tactic.
Google/GV was shit listed by a bunch of startup founders in Portland many years ago because they "stole a company" they were partnering with there. The founder was somebody everybody liked and PDX tech didn't take it well (and yes, we all talk to each other).
This does happen and you need to be very careful with these sorts of arrangements. They know they put stars in people's eyes and I've seen them take advantage of it.
Not trolling: What reputation?
Among non-techies, their reputation is one of creepy and spying.
Among techies, it's that company that keeps killing loved products.
Among developers, it's one of terrible support and awful job interviews.
Common to everyone is they are impossible to get hold of, a faceless and heartless machine that makes decisions you can't argue with.
None of this matters because they have the best products on the market in a few key areas and everyone keeps using those regardless of their reputation.
So what reputation do they have to lose? Their reputation is already bad, and it doesn't matter anyway, and they presumably know this as well as everyone else does.
Google has had four lawsuits which look bad for them make Hacker news or the reddit front page in the last year, which I can't imagine is good for their PR. Anecdotally, I also see a lot of people in tech where I work growing a disdain for them, including myself. I went so far as to buy a new phone to put LineageOS on a few weeks ago because I don't like the direction the company is heading.
2015 - #10
2014 - #14
2013 - #4
2012 - #2
2011 - #1
This really counts as collapse to you? How many companies would kill to be that widely recognized?
But even being on the list means it hasn't collapsed.
Google is an advertising company. They can easily sacrifice reputation where it brings them the most profit and fix it again with a bit of PR.
Without additional context of the judges statement (or, better, either the actual filings in the case), that's far from clear.
It's not impossible or even uncommon for a defendant in a case to make an argument in the style of “I didn't take it, and, even if I had, I had permission to take it.”
You can't infer the nonexistence of the first part of the claim from the existence of the second.
But they were under NDA not to disclose the ideas, and yet they started a company marketing a product based on those ideas. If this is a correct interpretation, they don't have the legal ability to do so.
Of course the wording of the NDA is everything in a case like this. I'm assuming Google wrote the NDA when this guy should have provided one for Google to sign.
Different equation if you need money/investment. But if you're already up, running and growing it's easier to play hard ball and demand an NDA.
This is why, when you visit Google, you should never sign the overreaching NDA for a visitor's badge. You still get a visitor's badge; it just has a warning on it so Googlers know not to tell you too much.
As for reputation, why would a behemoth like Google care if they squash a little guy (or two, or a dozen)? Even if they go on a PR offensive they still won't be able to outmatch or shout over Google. At most people like the HN audience will find out and then... proceed to do nothing because Google's products are either ubiquitous (like search) or first-in-class (because they are free, like email).
That is, in fact, exactly what the case is trying to demonstrate by referring to several other lawsuits against Google for similar acts. Remains to be seen if it works.
Actual lawsuit: http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?articl...
This was more than a simple idea or patent. It was developed by someone with extensive experience in a vertical industry. Google actually paid to contract with him to develop a proof-of-concept, with the idea if the tech panned out and had market viability, they'd take it to market with him.
Google doesn't hire patent trolls or rely on their expertise in developing products.
The lawsuit is full of hyperbole (which hurts it in IMHO), but the underlying claim looks pretty believable.
You can read more about my experience with Google ATAP via this post...
Basically, evil incubation.
The idea that they'd cut someone out just to not pay them does not match this reality.
What normally happens in these types of situations is the stakeholders from the company that has just seen the product get together and the boss asks a few questions, such as, "Do we need them to build this?" If nothing was put into place to protect the ip of the inventors, then the idea will frequently get stolen.
It's very relevant to this story and I think it's important for it to be told to warn other inventors how Google treats the little guy/girl!
I think the NDA meetings that result in what the lawsuits allege. Note, allege. Should have more stringent regulations to protect the smaller guy. Also google sinking its paws into everything and in many cases misbehaving makes me glad that we have sensible regulations against monopolies if it ever gets that far
How do you do research?
How do you communicate with your lawyer?
They know everything about what you do, when you do it, and who you do it with.
DuckDuckGo Search Engine
VPN Discussion on HN
This 2008 patent application has a number of interesting illustrations:
(note the actually granted Google patents that reference this one)
Seems like the original idea was LEGO-like modular system of components that can be combined into buildings.
Which in itself it is not entirely new and largely pre-dates the advent of computers as we know them today.
In the '80's and '90's there were all sorts of experiments in the field, it was a "trend" explored in many countries, "modular building prefabrication".
I was involved in the time in several projects (and actual constructions) though surely things may have become easier today (thanks to CAD, CAE and new materials/techniques), at the time the results were not as good as hypothized in the patent, aspecially for "civil" buildings.
Specifically there was a definite saving of time in the building phase, BUT the resulting building was either at a "lower" standard/level than a more traditional construction or - to have the same standard/level - the costs were not so much lower.
The base concept has been used for decades in "industrial" buildings, such as factories and warehouses, however those used a much lesser number of different (and simpler) components, and more or less they are anyway always a parallelepiped of some kind.
Simply (and not so surprisingly) the techniques developed at the time for houses/office buildings made only sense in very large scale projects as the cost of (besides constructing them and assembling them) storing, managing and transporting/delivering the components killed the economic savings possible in theory.
If (when) a "build components on demand" scheme and a "continuous flow of production" was possible it did make sense, unfortunately this is not what normally happens in the real world, there were months/years when the production was lower than demand and then for whatever reasons there were months/years with no or very low demand, thus costs of plants ate the savings.
Btw, modular/semi-modular home construction is a pretty big thing here in Sweden. Seems like most standalone homes are built that way nowadays. I had earlier assumed it was similar elsewhere, but it seems like it isn't dominant in most other places.
I guess our horrible climate makes it nicer/more profitable to build modules in a climate-controlled factory than on a wintery/coldish/raining building site. Contrast that to e.g. California - decent climate all year around. I'm also guessing that our high taxes on work and a lack of a low-paid builder workforce also contributes to making automation of housing module manufacturing worthwhile.
(It's not just one house manufacturing company doing these, there are loads of them around the country; I think the typical size is a couple of hundred people. With lots and lots of automation. Not quite sure why large-scale consolidation hasn't happened yet - I'm guessing it's because these companies tend to be privately/family-owned.)
"About 84% of detached houses in Sweden use prefabricated timber elements, while in developed economies such as the US, Australia and the UK, no more than 5% of permanent housing has any significant prefabrication."
Sure, that's part of the reasons, but while smallish, "standalone" homes (1-5 floors) can be (and are actually) prefabricated (particularly if based on timber elements, but not only) the mentioned patent (and the personal experience I reported) was for "large" condo or office type buildings, multi-storey (6 or more floors), with a steel or concrete structure, that however allow (or allowed) the architect to introduce his/her own designs (within limits).
BTW - and as a side note - timber based construction have a lot of issues in many countries where strict fire regulations exist, generally speaking single or few apartments homes "fly below" the requirements, but large condos, office and public buildings would never meet fire standards or - in order to respect them - have an unbearable building overcost when compared to steel/concrete.
But what I was trying to highlight is that while prefabricating allows definitely for faster building (and this is particularly evident in the countries, like your Sweden, where the climate is adverse) the claim (of the patent) to save 30 or 40% of the building costs is hard to believe.
I mean, one thing is an alternative technology, and another one is an alternative technology capable of saving several tens per cent of the building costs.
The usual (traditional) reference for prefabricated houses (I am not in any way affiliated to them) in Europe is the (German) HufHaus (which is in the business by some 100 years or so) :
AFAIK at the end of the day they provide exceptionally well engineered and built products but their cost is on par with (in some cases higher than) a "same level" locally built house.
A key point (that many people seem to forget) which makes me personally (where possible) support the prefabricated home concept is that the quality you can obtain in the factory (because of the "right" environment, because the actual workers are highly specialized in each specific task they do, because each and every detail has been already engineered, tested, failed and re-engineered to near perfection) rarely can be obtained locally, still I never found a big difference costwise.
I think that last paragraph (about specialization vs being a local jack of all trades) has a loth of truth to it.
Having lived in the Swedish outback.. without these modular homes made in factories it's all about your personal connections to local people who can do building work. There is no other way of making sure that your house gets built correctly. This obviously doesn't make for a very dynamic marketplace. People get screwed constantly. (So that's a plus for prefab factories - it's a lot easier to screen their quality than for individual contractors - out of sheer volume of customers.)
I have never heard of Google being accused of something similar in the past. Does anyone have any pointers to similar incidents?
> that Attia gave Google rights to his technology “without a condition of later payment.”
They admit they did it, but claim they were in the right to do it.
There’s many way to write such a contract.
- Feb 2013 created SpeakerBlast; turn multiple devices into one sync speaker via a URL
- March 2013 Samsung released the Galaxy 4 with Group Play (same concept as SpeakerBlast)
- April 2013 Google/Motorola emails/calls me asking would I sell SpeakerBlast for inclusion into the Moto X
- May 2013 Fly out from Baltimore to demo/meet with Google ATAP in the hopes of fulfilling my goal/dream of being a successful inventor. During the meeting they bait my partner and I for our secret sauce then leave the room. They come back and say time to go and lead us to the elevator and say the race is on. See ya!
As the David in this David n Goliath story I have no idea if our work was used in Chrome Audio or not. The head of that unit is run by the Google ATAP tech lead we met with.
Ive heard this is just how it is in Silicon Valley.. treat the little guy and girls like crap. Take their hard work, steal it and stomp on them. Things need to change!!!
First company I worked for wrote Palm software. Palm starts a conversation with us--allegedly on how they could improve their OS for developers--and starts asking fairly specific questions about our product.
Three months later they come out with a copy of it.
Worse still, before that happened Intellisync sued us for patent infringement on our own algorithm. The boss didn't bother to patent it figuring that it had prior-art all over it. That didn't stop the USPTO from issuing Intellisync a patent though. Our attorney was sure we could win, IF we felt like investing a few years and a few $M into the legal battle.
It reminded me of the advice from one of Paul Graham's essays: Don't Talk to Corp Dev 
>Distractions are the thing you can least afford in a startup. And conversations with corp dev are the worst sort of distraction, because as well as consuming your attention they undermine your morale.
Surely that's a significant understatement. Once mega copy dev has planted that idea in one's mind it must be hard to kill off. So maybe one needs to have thought about the possibility of an unwelcome approach and have a plan to kill it.
1. Ask mega corp to authenticate themselves - maybe by posting a pre-agree shared secret on their corporate blog.
2. Post the approach from mega copy dev on one's own blog telling them to go away. Eg. "I received the following unwelcome approach from a large Mountain View search company - details redacted (snark) ..."
"In 1977, (Polaroid) revenues reached $1 billion"
The lawsuit took 15 years to settle:
Which doesn't contradict that thing about Kodak initially having to remove their products from the market within 30 days, of course.
My main beef was that Animat's comment seemed to say (or at least imply) that back then, patents protected smaller companies against larger bullies - which seems off since Polaroid was a billion dollar business at the time. I'm sure Kodak was larger (update: I just found a figure of $5.9B revenue for 1977), but still. A yearly revenue of a billion dollars does mean you are able to defend yourself, even if it gets prolonged - as evidenced by the case dragging out for 15 years...
- Post-grant proceedings are easy to start and delay enforcement.
I can't agree that this strictly benefits the challenger. A well funded challenger was going to challenge anyways. This lowers the costs for both sides.
I'll have to read up on the EBay case.
Traktor for iOS lets you select songs by beats per minute and adjust their speed to synchronize multiple tracks at once. If it adjusted target music tempo with heart rate, speed, rate of altitude change etc as inputs then your product would be realized.
If you've developed ideas on what are the best ways to choose tempos why not consider contacting Native Instruments?
Your job during an M&A meeting is to convince the other side that you have unique technology and knowledge that will be very costly to replicate. You are trying to sell your technology.
How should things change? I genuinely feel for you so keep the rest of what I'm going to say at arms distance.
The way I see it, you are essentially asking people not to learn from each other. Software is not basic science where, if you discover a process or a particle, you are putting into words something outside the human brain.
Software (mathematical formulations aside) describes how the brain works. Anyone can hear a high level description of your SpeakerBlast an imagine a way to sync speakers. Their implementation might be radically different to yours but there is no way for you to stop me from imagining a solution based simply on your two sentence description of the product.
If you want to learn more about this process, there's a book by a neuroscientist, The Tell-Tale Brain by VS Ramachandran, which delves into the process of mirroring and meme spreading.
I dont think he sayimg anything like that. There's a big difference between learning from each other and baiting you for your secret sauce.
2. "Baiting" is an opinion. I have no doubt OP got baited in his view but to Google, it might have been simply the asking of questions.
Maybe the questions were asked to make sure OP's technology was sufficiently different and inferior to whatever they themselves launched. If that were the case, it wouldn't be baiting. It'd be discovery.
The engineer goes and puts together a prototype which gets enterprise buy-in and is released to the general public.
Who is the teacher in this case? I'd argue that no one taught anyone anything.
Oh, btw OP's post taught you to watch out for your intellectual property when negotiating with anyone. Will you now compensate him every time you walk into a meeting and remind yourself not to give away your trade secrets?
There is a context to intellectual property. If you sign an NDA to get some information and then use it to launch a new product this argument will not hold to any judge in your defense?
There is also a huge difference between 2 individuals exchanging ideas and a large corporate specifically seeking you out for your idea to steal it. It's difficult to see how anyone can conflate the two.
(Not to imply anything about the truth or falsity of the allegations. I don't know whether any are true.)
Seriously guys. You might think it’s just online venting but these law firms dig everything up.
A company called Max Sound , whose only line of business seems to be suing Google, bought rights to sue over this in May 2014 and then sued Google in Dec 2014 . They seem to have filed at least one other somewhat questionable lawsuit against Google in the past .
The Valley is a paradox of open/fsf types and mega corps which can simultaneously be very good and very evil.
Google's ownership of the web could enable them to do a zillion evil things if they wanted to, which they don't.
Google could easily control the outcomes of elections.
They could easily sell companies the ability to change how their company is perceived, rankings etc.
Granted some of that may actually be illegal, but I think if G were a regular corp they'd have tried to do some really bad things.
That said, I do think they do some bad things.
So it's a paradoxy kind of thing.
You may think it’s a coincidence, but then you realize it isn’t.
Is it just me or has there been an increase of anti-google piling on after the James Damore thing?
Why didn't Attia patent everything already? He'd been working on it for 50 years.
I suspect Google is really just getting into the building design software space but not using Attia's work and Attia thought he was now a part of any effort by Google in building design software.
Thankfully, your honor, most of us are smart enough to know to not play unpaid internet forum lawyer.
theDoug is also not wrong, to be fair. There's no situation in which a Google employee who is not a lawyer publicly commenting on a lawsuit against Google works out well for the employee. Anything he says could get his employer in additional trouble, and as an employee, commenting on a legal case is really, really easy grounds for termination, pretty much anywhere. Whether he agrees with the article or not, nothing he says ends up beneficial to him, so it just makes sense to not comment.
I miss the days when I could comment and people would think I was just a person with an opinion.
You have to understand: Google gets sued a lot . It is a function of having money. I wish everyone on HN as much success as google, and if you do even a fraction as well I can guarantee you'll be hiring lawyers at a steady clip as your bank balance attracts lawsuits.
Doesn't mean people shouldn't be careful when partnering with Google or anyone, but there's no end of people who think when they have some idea in their head no one else on earth has it and can execute on it.
Nearly 8b people on this planet means that someone, somewhere, is probably working on 'your' idea. Some of them at Google. Some at Apple, some at some yc startup across the room from you. Only answer is to ship better and before they do.
Freedom of speech??
- you must be joking
Evil and illegal are two different things, and sadly, they quite often do not align.
They've developed a method of systematic theft of IP, which, though technically legal as an isolated incident, shows malicious intent when strung together.
Is that enough to satisfy the charge, or are they still protected?
The accusation is that Google has a routine set up for doing this, therefore is very much knowingly taking away people's rights against their will.
> "Project Genie to educate Google about his proprietary ideas and techniques so they could develop a working proof of concept of his Engineered Architecture technology"
Parametric design and integration into AEC is industry standard since the 80-ies, and a long-time goal of virtually all design software manufacturers. Everybody had a take on this moonshot, and eventually it will get there.
It started with Christopher Alexanders "Design Patterns", when he won a city planning competition for the rebuilding of a destroyed Lima, Peru by offering simple recursive design patterns and not a grand master plan.
In the following decades this was being incooperated into various design tools. In the 90ies I based a university course on that ("Computer Assistet Planning"), and there were several others also worldwide.
City planning is obviously easiest, as there are almost no physics involved, AEC also easy but problematic because the heterogeneous SW used (needing API's, needing a strong partner), and construction being the hardest (Think of AutoCAD vs Revit). Allia thought of the Neufert standards as design patterns. Good goal, but by far not proprietary and revolutionary. Most of us working on that had far more than Allia.
Going to Google with this plan is also extremely naive. There's only AutoDESK to go to with such a project.
An earlier overview is that article https://www.theverge.com/2015/2/17/8048779/google-x-eli-atti...
A current take on city planning is the City Engine: http://www.esri.com/software/cityengine/free-trial
Recursive pattern expansion is the most powerful. Think of Lindenmayer L-Systems to generate plants or fractal image compression. Graphical pattern matching would be a breakthrough way to simplify usage if such a tool. This was studied in the late 80ies.
The question to you sir was: which patterns in Alexander's book are "recursive".