A renowned architect and Google have been locked in a legal dispute for a little over three years now. What started out as a legal dispute over licensing fees and collaboration has now morphed into a lawsuit claim of racketeering against Google and its parent company, Alphabet.
Well-respected architect Eli Attia has been fighting Google for years over software he had previously been developing in conjunction with the software giant. While the legal dispute has been ongoing in the background for years, the lawsuit gained new media focus this month when Attia was able to successfully add a claim of racketeering in his fight against Google. Just last week, after reviewing Attia’s motion, the Superior Court of California allowed a claim of racketeering to go forward in Attia’s civil case against Google.
Racketeering is defined by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). The RICO Act is a federal law that provides for both criminal and civil causes of action to punish acts committed as part of an organized pattern of illegal behavior. The unique aspect of the RICO Act is that it allows private citizens to be sued if they are named as “leaders” of the syndicate. The RICO Act typically states that leaders are those that order others to either commit the illegal crimes or assist them in illegal actions.
At the heart of Attia’s lawsuit is architectural software that Attia was to develop with Google. The software prototype was called “Engineered Architecture.” The Engineered Architecture software was intended to aid in the design and construction of large buildings. Attia, a renowned architect, was to bring his career experience to the project while Google would spearhead the code development.
The project never came to fruition as planned, however. Attia claims that while Google told him that they were scuttling the project and no longer interested in pursuing the collaboration, they secretly used his contribution to create their own software based on the same concepts. As a result, Attia claims that not only has Google violated multiple contract agreements with him, but Google has acted in a similar manner of behavior with other collaborators.
As such, Attia has sued not only Google but its executives as well. Naming them as “leaders” under the RICO Act, Attia is suing Larry Page and other executives in addition to an Alphabet company called Flux Factory, also known as Flux, which Attia alleges is the startup based on his architectural ideas.
By successfully adding the racketeering claim against Google, Attia seeks to prove that Google has proceeded in specific, illegal behavior repeatedly against others. According to the motion, Attia alleges that there are at least six other instances of illegal behavior similar to this. Similar racketeering lawsuits have been brought against Major League Baseball and the Los Angeles Police Department.
While only time will tell whether the lawsuit against Google will be successful, companies should seek out experienced intellectual property counsel when entering into complex licensing agreements with individuals from other fields. When companies enter into collaborative projects that require complicated, multi-part licensing and contract provisions, they should always obtain the representation and services of experienced legal counsel.
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Also published on Medium.