Facebook back in court fighting claims it nicked British data centre IP

UK-based BladeRoom's founder airs grievances

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Mark Zuckerberg won't appear in front of Parliament, but Facebook is in the dock again this week as part of a long-running court case over the alleged theft of British trade secrets.

BladeRoom is a Cheltenham-based operation specialising in energy-efficient modular data centres. Founder Paul Rogers designed industrial kitchens and came up with what was claimed to be the world's first air-cooled server room – we covered their innovations in 2010.

Rogers told the Californian Northern District Court of San Jose this week that he spoke to Facebook under NDA from 2011 to 2013, and was appalled to see Facebook present what he believed to be BladeRoom technology as its own innovation in 2014.

BladeRoom was in talks with the power giant Emerson, and later discovered that Facebook had sold data centre technology to Emerson for its Luleå 2 data centre in Sweden. Facebook had contributed the know-how to the Open Compute Project, an initiative started by Facebook in 2011. OCP rules specify IP can only be donated with the owner's permission.

BladeRoom Group (and legal entity BripCo) filed litigation in 2015 (PDF) alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of contract (among other things). It's now gone to court – although most of the extensive docket is under seal, and much of what isn't has been redacted.

The UK biz has alleged that once Facebook handed the tech over to the OCP, it lost hundreds of millions of dollars in business. Google pulled out of negotiations with the company.

Facebook said it was developing modular technology long before it met with BladeRoom and will argue that Luleå 2 isn't as modular as BladeRoom has claimed.

Proceedings formally kicked off on Monday. Judge Edward Davita presided. BladeRoom claimed it's being "outlawyered" by Facebook, with 4,000 exhibits in play.

Facebook was sued by Yahoo! for patent infringement, but settled in 2012. More recently Facebook has been under fire for copying features from rival social network Snap. ®


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