Google is being sued for allegedly infringing upon CamUp, a New York video chat startup that predates Google Hangouts. CamUp is seeking damages and attempting to shut down Google Hangouts altogether on claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, civil conspiracy, copyright infringement, and trade dress infringement.
CamUp was first unveiled in March 2011 at SXSW, where the company claims that its booth was visited by Google VP Marissa Mayer and several Google engineers. In May, the companies met in London for a meeting in which CamUp demonstrated their platform and proposed integrating a "Watch with your friends" button into YouTube, which would directly launch a CamUp session. The company claims that Google UK's head of business markets Richard Robinson expressed enthusiasm about integrating CamUp, requested and received the company's marketing strategy, and promised that he would be in touch. However, CamUp says that Robinson did not respond to followup correspondence and the company saw an unusual user traffic spike originating from Mountain View, California where Google's headquarters are located. CamUp claims that this direct traffic from visitors that stayed longer than the average user — about 40 minutes per user as opposed to the average 1-4 minutes — was from Google employees studying the product.
In June 2011 Google launched Google+ with its popular Hangouts feature, as well as Hangouts integration with YouTube. The filing claims that the Hangouts integration button was an "identical copy" of what was pitched in the May meeting, and provides screenshots of the proposed feature and Google's original implementation. According to CamUp, the originally proposed button said "Watch with your friends on CamUp" while Google's first implementation said "Watch with your friends. Start a Google Hangout." The button has since been replaced with a Google Hangouts logo but retains the text "Watch with your friends" on mouseover. The lawsuit also claims that Google Hangouts infringes on the design of CamUp's service, featuring a large window containing media in the center, a logo in the upper left, a white and grey color palette, and small windows underneath the main window containing webcam images of the participants.
The lawsuit was filed on June 28th, however, Google has yet to issue a public response. We reached out to Google representatives, but they declined to comment.