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Summary:

A New York start-up claims that a video sharing feature in YouTube and Google+ is based on concepts that it showed to Google when the two companies met to discuss collaboration strategies in 2011.

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A New York start-up claims that a video sharing feature in YouTube and Google+  is based on concepts that it showed to Google when the two companies met to discuss collaboration strategies in 2011.

In a lawsuit filed in San Jose, CamUp is accusing the search giant of copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation over a “watch with your friends” button for videos. The button allegedly directs users to a “Hangouts” page where a user can watch the video with other members who are on Google’s social network, Google+.

According to CamUp, Google VP Marissa Mayer and company engineers approached the start-up during the South by Southwest Festival in Texas in March of 2011. Soon after, the two companies reportedly met in London to discuss ways to integrate a “Watch with your friends on CamUp” button directly into YouTube. CamUp says a Google executive was “extremely enthusiastic” but did not respond to follow-up calls despite an assurance that he would “be in touch up.”

In May of 2011, CamUp says it noticed a dramatic spike in traffic from Mountain View, California — a jump it attributes to Google engineers studying its product. The next month, Google launched “Hangouts” and included a “Watch with friends” button that was allegedly identical to one CamUp had showed it one month before. The lawsuit (embedded below) includes screenshots of both “watch” buttons and a note that Google has since altered the button.

(Update: Google said it has yet to see the lawsuit and declined comment) . The company’s Hangouts feature, which allows users to chat with each other or watch videos together, is one of the most popular features of Google+. It recently announced plans to combine Hangouts and its other messaging tools.

CamUp is seeking damages and an injunction banning Hangouts on YouTube and Google+. In addition to Google, it is suing Google UK’s Head of Business and Markets, Richard Robinson, and two unnamed executives.

CamUP v Google

(Image by Adchariyaphoto via Shutterstock)

  1. I am highly skeptical of Google stealing the idea from anyone considering that the need for a joint browsing/watching experience over the Internet has been on the minds of hundreds of thousands of people for a long time. I personally thought of a joint browsing experience (complete with synchronized scrolling and mouse movements, etc.) well over 10 years ago. I have heard of plenty of anecdotes of long distance friends (especially sweethearts) starting up a Youtube video in synch on both their computers to simulate a joint viewing experience.

    It is possible that Google has tried to simulate a similar experience as CamUp. I can’t tell cuz I don’t know how CamUp’s experience compares to Google’s. I would guess that this is the case of a Google Executive taking a first look at CamUp’s experience, going overboard with enthusiasm, only to go back to home office and hearing his developers tell him that either they are already working on it and/or they can build it in-house. I am inclined to think that they were already working on the idea or already had the technology in place to implement it because I doubt even Google would be able to start from scratch and build the feature in one month from the time the Google Executive met with CamUp and the time Google released it on Hangout.

    As far as the placement of the “Watch with friends” button goes, I don’t think there should be much of a case there. For example, the “Yes”, “No”, “Okay” and other similar buttons in most forms, applications, pop-up dialogs are in the same place. I am more interested to see if Google copied any of the backend implementation algorithms. It will also be interesting to see how this plays out in court.

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    1. you probably work for google

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      1. so what if he is?

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      2. Toby Harriman Monday, July 2, 2012

        Very constructive reply!

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  2. Reblogged this on e1evation, llc and commented:
    I’m really getting tired of these stupid infringement cases. There’s nothing ‘rocket science’ about Google hangouts…

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  3. Kevin Tyler Monday, July 2, 2012

    It seems likely that Google Hangouts was under wraps for way longer than the month before they met with CamUp. I think a more plausible explanation is that Google accelerated the rollout of Hangouts after hearing about another company contemplating the same idea. (Recall Google Drive was conceived of before DropBox and it was still only rolled out a couple months ago?)

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  4. esemplastic Monday, July 2, 2012

    CamUp may be less than unique in the idea. But Google probing their systems in advance of releasing an essentially identical concept pretty much gives Be In a solid foot to stand on here.

    Google would because of PR and other details just write the lottery check quietly to purchase CamUp lock stock and barrel to make it vanish. The founders of Be In probably will be happy enough after their initial conversations started at SXSW with that sort of outcome anyhow.

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  5. Kevin Nalts Nalty Monday, July 2, 2012

    Reminds me of 2004 when I told Chad Hurley about this great idea for video sharing.

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  6. google doing something evil again? who would have thought…

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  7. ridiculous patents lawsuits part 23423534

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  8. Hangouts was developed at Google Kirkland, which is in Kirkland, WA. How was CamUp’s traffic from there?

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  9. Surprise surprise…

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  10. All you haters who are “tired of infringement” and the “patent lawsuits” obviously never invested your own blood, sweat, tears and boot strapped cash to build a business; only to have it taken from you by someone else. There is a reason every developed economy has patent protection. Nobody is going to invest massive amounts of time and money into an idea if it were legal for anyone else to steal it. If that were possible, there would be businesses who would never do any R&D or create new products (Microsoft comes to mind….) and would just wait for something new and successful to come along, steal it, and sell it at half the price because of their scale. So until you’ve been there, don’t hate the system. It protects the inventors and innovators.

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  11. Richard Altman Friday, July 20, 2012

    so where is this at now, they are in court, they have cause, they’ve made their case, everything has been thought of, very little of ever gets done, so for the few that do, that’s what this is about. the double edge sword of the internet shows that google just looks bad in this light. nothing happens out of the blue, between the meetings, the traffic, this person talking about Google Kirkland, when was it developed there, prove your timeline in relation to cam up. google had this kind of stuff happen in africa where they were muscling in where they shouldn’t have, http://www.technologyreview.com/view/426626/googles-blunder-shows-africa-has-ideas-worth/
    now it’s outta NY, with tonnes of witnesses from sxsw, first point of contact was M Mayer, and we know what she’s up to know (congrats on that too) so, someone at google has to account for all this. it’s tech blue balls

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