Friday, March 23, 2007

Buyukkokten a Hero or a traitor

A small social-networking software company has filed suit against Google, claiming that much of the source code behind, the search engine's popular social service, was stolen by a former engineer. In its lawsuit, Affinity Engines, based in Palo Alto, California, said engineer Orkut Buyukkokten illegally took the code that he had written for the company, which he co-founded with him when he joined Google. Affinity Engines also claimed that Buyukkokten promised Affinity Engines that he wouldn't develop a competing social-network service for Google. Affinit Engines, which filed the claim on May 25 in Santa Clara Superior Court, is seeking unspecified damages and royalties.

In addition to nearly identical text found in similar features in and Affinity Engine's social-networking products, the suit cited several identical software problems in each company's service. "In its initial investigation, AEI (Affinity Engines) uncovered a total of nine unique software bugs ... in AEI's inCircle product that were also present in," according to the lawsuit. "The presence of these bugs in both products is highly indicative of a common source code.... contains software and source code copied, developed or derived from AEI's inCircle software or source code."

Meanwhile, for Google, the suit came at an awkward time. The company was in the process of an initial public offering, which was expected to be one of the biggest ever. But Affinity Engines isn't the only company suing Google. Among others, the company faces a patent-infringement suit from Overture regarding auctioning placement in search-engine results. For its part, Google shrugged off ALL the allegations.

The origins of the orkut code dispute arose, the lawsuit claimed, when Buyukkokten, a Turkish citizen, decided to take a job with Google to solve his visa problems. He continued to work on inCircle, however, and signed agreements in 2002 and 2003 stating that any social-networking technology he created belonged to Affinity Engines, the company said.

But, the suit alleged, Google soon became interested in owning a social-networking service. When its $30 million offer to buy Friendster was spurned, it turned to Buyukkokten. The company claimed in the lawsuit. "Buyukkokten copied and otherwise used inCircle source code still in his possession," Affinity Engines claims. "At no time during his communications with AEI prior to Jan. 22, 2004, did Buyukkokten reveal that he was developing ..."

The suit also provided detail about why it believes Buyukkokten broke his agreement. On Jan. 24, Google threw a launch party for As the party was going on, Ziemann, who didn't know about the new site, called Buyukkokten on his cell phone. "Apparently assuming that Ziemann had just learned of the website, Buyukkokten's first comment to Ziemann was, 'I hope you aren't mad at me,' to which Ziemann replied, 'Why would I be mad at you?'" the lawsuit said.

Affinity Engines chief executive Brian Samuels said that just days later, his company let Google know there was a problem. After several months of little or no relief from Google, Affinity Engines decided to file its suit. But it decided to lay low in hopes that it wouldn't "inflame Google," said Samuels.


Anonymous said...

what do you expect from a turk?

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