Rival Sues Google's Waze for Copyright Infringement

PhantomAlert claims Google subsidiary Waze stole its entire Points of Interest database and incorporated the data into its own app in a modified form.

PhantomAlert sues Google Waze

Mobile traffic app vender PhantomAlert filed suit against Google subsidiary Waze for allegedly stealing some the company's data and using the information in its own product.

In a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in a California federal court this week, PhantomAlert accused Waze of copying PhantomAlert's Points of Interest database in its entirety and incorporating the data into Waze's traffic app in a modified form.

The lawsuit charges Waze with copying the Points of Interest database on multiple additional occasions as the database was updated.

PhantomAlert claimed it discovered the theft through the presence of several fictitious points of interest in the Waze application that were identical to the ones PhantomAlert had deliberately planted in its own database to detect copying of the data.

Both PhantomAlert and Waze make applications that provide drivers with information on traffic conditions, red light cameras, speed traps, dangerous intersections, railroad crossings and similar data. Much of the map and traffic information provided by the applications is crowdsourced from drivers using the apps.

Google acquired Waze for approximately $1 billion in June 2013. Since then, Waze has been operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of Google.

PhantomAlert's lawsuit accuses Waze of copying its Points of Interest data before Google acquired the company and then continuing to do so after the acquisition was completed.

After Google acquired Waze, the Internet giant incorporated portions of the Waze application, including the copied Points of Interest data, into Google's own mapping services, PhantomAlert said in its complaint.

Google then reproduced the information from the Points of Interest database and created derivative works from the information, displayed it, and sold or leased the information to users through its end-user license agreements, PhantomAlert's lawsuit claimed.

PhantomAlert claims that Waze began copying its database in or around late 2012. According to PhantomAlert, Waze's CEO initially attempted to get PhantomAlert to exchange its Points of Interest database with a similar database maintained by Waze. When PhantomAlert rejected the proposal, Waze began lifting its data without authorization or consent, the lawsuit said.

Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment. But the charges could prove embarrassing for the company if they are proved true.

The PhantomAlert lawsuit adds to a slew of legal and regulatory issues facing Google. In Europe, the company is battling charges that it unfairly favors its own services in search results to the detriment of others. Google could face billions in fines if European Union regulatory authorities determine the company broke EU antitrust laws.

Just earlier this week, a law firm and a public relations firm in Europe launched a new Website to help companies sue Google for anti-competitive behavior. Dubbed GRIP, for Google Redress & Integrity Platform, the site seeks to help companies evaluate their claims against Google in the EU and to help them get legal redress.

Meanwhile, antitrust officials in India, this week slapped Google with charges that the company is abusing its market dominance to play up its own services ahead of those from other vendors. Google has until Sept. 10 to respond to those charges.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.