AI dashcam slinger Samsara accuses rival Motive of corporate skullduggery

Lawsuit claims top execs made fake accounts to study and copy competing products for years

AI-powered dashcam maker Samsara sued rival startup Motive Technologies in US federal court on Wednesday, accusing top execs of IP theft, patent infringement, fraud, false advertising, and more.

Samsara claims Motive has been ripping off its products and marketing for years. Three patents were allegedly infringed to copy Samsara's IoT-based driving hardware and software. Even the names of its products and its mission statement have been duplicated, it is claimed [PDF].

Even the mission statement? That's low. Allegedly.

"Samsara's allegations and associated campaign against Motive are meritless," a Motive spokesperson told The Register. "They are a result of Samsara's inability to develop competitive AI technology and the fact that they are losing customers, especially large Enterprise accounts, to Motive. This courtroom tactic is an attempt to limit competition and we will fight these baseless accusations to the fullest extent."

In 2016, Samsara launched Vehicle Gateway – a device supporting capabilities like GPS tracking and a Wi-Fi hotspot to help drivers run analytics software. Three years later, Motive released its own similar device and named it Vehicle Gateway too, according to Samsara's complaint

The biz blamed Motive's CEO Shoaib Makani, chief product officer Jairam Ranganathan, other senior executives, as well as employees working in sales and customer support for violating its intellectual property rights. Under Makani, managers reportedly supported staff spinning up fake companies to purchase and access Samsara's Dashboard software. 

"Activity records for some of the fictitious Motive-related accounts of which Samsara is aware, show that Motive employees surreptitiously viewed the Samsara Dashboard nearly 21,000 times from 2018 to 2022, when Samsara discovered this access and disabled it," it claimed

In court documents, Samsara attached a still image taken from a video captured by one of its cameras that Motive had procured, appearing to show Makani and Ranganathan using its product in a car. It also accused other Motive workers of posing as Samsara customers to inquire about its technology, asking questions about its AI safety features, and whether its platform used any third-party software. 

Samsara's co-founders, CEO Sanjit Biswas and CTO John Bicket, claimed they uncovered Motive's campaign to steal its IP after investigating a trade report that made its competitor's products look more favorable. They later realized the study, which claimed Samsara's software failed to detect whether drivers were wearing seatbelts accurately, was conducted by a third party on behalf of Motive. 

"Looking at what a competitor is doing can be acceptable and even productive in that it might spur innovation to help better serve customers. But that is not what Motive is doing here," the pair alleged in a statement. They reportedly contacted Motive and its board of directors, urging them to stop imitating its products – though the company denied any wrongdoing and continued anyway. 

Now, Samsara has asked the court for a jury trial to stop Motive infringing its patents, as alleged, and to be compensated for any losses incurred.

It's not the first time Motive has been sued. Omnitracks – a software biz also focused on supporting transportation and logistics – accused Motive of patent infringement in a lawsuit filed last year. 

The Register has asked Samsara and Motive for further comment. ®

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