The Stack Archive

Judge allows Facebook data centre design lawsuit to continue

Mon 20 Feb 2017

In Silicon Valley, a judge has denied Facebook’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit levied against it for the alleged theft of data centre designs.

The complaint, filed nearly two years ago, is being brought by two companies, including BladeRoom, which contends that the social media giant passed protected designs to its Open Compute project, which seeks to create a universal and open resource for advanced data centre design.

BladeRoom asserts that both Facebook and Emerson Electric (latterly Vertiv) enticed it, together with fellow British plaintiff Bripco, into revealing its proprietary IP for data centre design innovation, subsequently appropriating these and incorporating them into Facebook’s Lulea data centre in Sweden, which itself derives from the Open Compute project.

BladeRoom licenses the contested design aspects from Bripco, the originator.

The California judge ruled that Facebook’s motion to dismiss could not counter the weight of the two British companies’ argument in favour of continuing with the suit. However he did dismiss the plaintiffs’ additional contention that Facebook had leveraged the companies’ own trade secrets to gain a specific commercial advantage against them.

The amount sought by way of compensation has not been disclosed, though it is known to include legal fees.

BladeRoom and Bripco are contending that in January of 2014 Facebook “announced to the world it had developed a revolutionary new method of constructing large, mission critical data centers”

The citation 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 Open Compute project was established in 2011 as an initiative to bring the data centre scene into increased heterogeneity and efficiency.

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