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Suit accuses Google of trade secret theft

Court filing says Google purloined secrets from an erstwhile partner, LimitNone, which sold a product that helps customers move data from Microsoft Outlook to Google Apps.

LimitNone, a small software development company, is seeking nearly $1 billion in damages in a lawsuit that accuses Google of reneging on a partnership with the small company and misappropriating its trade secrets for its Google Apps online service.

Specifically, the suit concerns LimitNone software called gMove designed to let people move e-mail, contacts, and calendar information stored in Microsoft Outlook to Google's online service. Google initially helped LimitNone develop, promote, and sell the product, assuring LimitNone it wouldn't offer a competing product, but then reversed course by giving away its own tool, Google E-mail Uploader, to premier-level Google Apps customers, the lawsuit said.

"With gMove priced at $19 per copy and Google's prediction that there were potentially 50 million users, Google deprived LimitNone of a $950 million opportunity by offering Google's competitive product for free as a part of its 'premier' Google Apps package," the lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois.

Google didn't immediately comment for this story.

LimitNone had shared confidential technical and sales forecast details with Google, the lawsuit said.

"Without Google's knowledge and use of the gMove trade secrets and confidential information, Google would not have been able to solve its longstanding Microsoft Outlook to Gmail conversion problem," the lawsuit said. "At a minimum, Google's access to the internal workings of gMove allowed it to gain a significant head start on designing the inner workings for a competing application."

Google's product "copied gMove's look, feel, functionality, and distribution model, including several unique and proprietary operations," the suit said.

And in May 2008, Google changed its user interface, breaking gMove compatibility and forcing the company to provide customer refunds.

The complaint alleges Google misappropriated trade secrets from LimitNone and violated fraud law by inducing LimitNone to share confidential information Google used to develop its competing product.