The Stack Archive

Facebook stole British data centre design, lawsuit claims

Tue 7 Apr 2015

A British company specialising in the design of data centres filed a lawsuit against Facebook last month, claiming that the social media giant stole its designs for a more efficient data centre, and that the substantial value of the work ended up in Facebook’s Luleå Data Center in Sweden.

The extensively redacted suit was filed by the BladeRoom Group, which has offices in both the UK and California, on the 23rd of March in San Jose, California and does not detail the circumstances in which its intellectual property was allegedly exposed to Facebook.

BladeRoom specialises in scalable, modular data centres with low PUE, and is accusing Facebook of having passed IP-protected designs to the Open Compute Project, which was established by Facebook in 2011 as an open repository of innovative data centre design. The lawsuit alleges that subsequent to OCP’s exposure to the designs, a plagiarised version of the work was built by Emerson Network Power in the Swedish Luleå region – though ENP are not implicated as culpable in the suit.

The filing states that in January 2014 Facebook “announced to the world it had developed a revolutionary new method of constructing large, mission critical data centers” and continues “Facebook claimed that it developed an innovative, pre-fabricated and modular construction approach and, extolling its benefits, encouraged the entire datacenter 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 from BRG,”

The suit claims that at the January meeting Facebook encouraged and induced others “to use BRG’s intellectual property as well by revealing BRG’s confidential information,”.

BladeRoom also cites the UK company Bripco, a licensor of technology to BladeRoom, though the company’s role in the assertions is unclear. The Blade Room Group is seeking an undisclosed sum in damages, and also legal fees for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of good faith, unfair business practices, unfair competition and unjust enrichment at its expense.

The company, which has provided facilities three times for the Olympic games, has undertaken project work for food production systems, and provides data centre designs for varied types of sites from greenfield and brownfield sites to insertion into existing industrial buildings and infrastructure.

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