THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has failed to have a lawsuit alleging that it stole data centre intellectual property from two British companies thrown out of court.
The two companies behind the action, BladeRoom and Bripco, claim that Facebook coaxed "them to reveal their data centre designs and construction methods with promises of acquisition and partnership, only to then copy those designs and methods and pass them off as their own".
The two companies' technology was then passed off by Facebook as its own, and effectively open-sourced when it gifted it to the Open Compute Project, the two companies claim.
The case was launched in 2015, a year after the opening of Facebook's data centre in Lulea, Sweden.
In their original legal filing, they claim that Facebook had "announced to the world it had developed a revolutionary new method of constructing large, mission critical data centres".
"Facebook claimed that it developed an innovative, pre-fabricated and modular construction approach and, extolling its benefits, encouraged the entire data centre industry to shift from traditional practices to this new method. What Facebook did not disclose, however, was that this methodology and the detailed know-how supporting its use had in fact been stolen by Facebook."
BladeRoom operates in both the UK and California, specialising in implementing scalable, modular data centres. It licences the technology from Bripco, and the two companies claim to have implemented more than 40 BladeRoom data centres on four continents since their first one was built in 2009.
The firms are seeking both damages for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract, as well as claiming that Facebook broke Unfair Competition Laws in California, engaged in unfair business practices.
According to the court documents, Facebook contacted BladeRoom in 2012 to discuss implementing the company's technology in its planned data centres and met with the company several times subsequently. BladeRoom claims that it requires all potential clients to sign non-disclosure agreements about the company's technology before discussions.
BladeRoom also had discussions with Emerson Electric, the company that ultimately built the Lulea, Sweden data centre for Facebook. The company subsequently built a second data centre in Sweden, also with Emerson.
"BRG [BladeRoom Group] alleges that after Emerson's announcement, Facebook began revealing BRG's confidential information through its initiative called the ‘OpenCompute Project', the goal of which ‘is to give the public ‘full access to the specifications' used by Facebook in its data centres in order to ‘spark a collaborative dialogue' about how to improve its approach to data centres'," according to the judgement.
"BRG alleges that on January 28, 2014, a Facebook representative made a public presentation at an OpenCompute forum and referred to the BladeRoom technology as one the ‘rapid deployment data centre' method created by Facebook. The same Facebook representative also authored and published an OpenCompute blog post that allegedly included details of the BladeRoom technology."
However, the court described Facebook's legal arguments to have BRG and Bripco's claims of misappropriation of trade secrets dismissed as "unconvincing".
It isn't the first time that Facebook has been accused of handling stolen IP. Earlier this month, it lost an intellectual property infringement case over its Oculus virtual reality headset technology, and was ordered to pay $500m in damages to Bethesda-owner Zenimax. µ
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