Waze, the crowd-sourced navigation app acquired by Google in 2013, faces a lawsuit filed on behalf of PhantomALERT, Inc. The company claims that Waze copied its proprietary navigation database and incorporated the data into its apps.

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Before Google acquired Waze

Kronenberger Rosenfeld LLP filed the lawsuit for PhantomALERT. The company claims Waze copied its database years before Google acquired it and saw “an unjustified and significant monetary gain” as a result of the copying, according to the press release announcing the lawsuit. Google, which paid more than $1 billion to acquire Waze, was also named in the lawsuit.

PhantomALERT’s database has a method of identifying potential points of interest for users and combining them with traffic conditions, road hazards, and traffic enforcement. The company said it has curated the database for over seven years.

Waze approached PhantomALERT

In the lawsuit, PhantomALERT alleges that Waze’s CEO approached its management in 2010 to discuss sharing information from their respective databases back and forth. At the time, PhantomALERT management declined, partially because Waze didn’t have a very large database at that time. PhantomALERT claims Waze then copied its points of interest database repeatedly and that Google still uses its copyrighted database without permission.

PhantomALERT said it figured out that Waze incorporated its points of interest database by looking for the fictitious points of interest it had included in its own database for the purpose of identifying companies that have copied its database. This practice is very common among companies with large sets of proprietary data.

Waze making itself more attractive?

Karl Kronenberger, the attorney who filed the lawsuit against Waze and Google, alleges that Waze wanted to make itself more attractive to potential suitors by increasing its value, and the way to do that was to increase the size of its database. Kronenberger believes Waze stole PhantomALERT’s database after its attempt to gain access to it legally

“The financial and reputational damages we have incurred from having our unique and carefully built database stolen are staggering,” PhantomALERT CEO Joseph Scott Seyoum said in a statement. “While we cannot undo the past, we can ensure that those who took our intellectual property no longer profit from it at our expense.”

PhantomALERT is seeking an injunction against both Waze and Google pertaining to the Waze app and website and Google’s use of Waze’s data in other ways. The company also seeks monetary damages.

 

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