A former Google contractor is suing the company for allegedly stealing from him the idea for the Sky layer in Google Earth.
The lawsuit filed this week in federal district court in Atlanta seeks punitive damages of $25 million from Google.
Jonathan Cobb claims in his suit that he disclosed the idea for a Google Sky idea in internal e-mail discussion groups when he worked at Google as a contractor beginning in 2006.
The Google Earth Sky layer, when it launched in August 2007, was similar in interface and functionality to what he had conceptualized, Cobb claims.
Google representatives did not return e-mails seeking comment.
The case may not be as straightforward as it sounds, says one Internet law expert.
"These types of misappropriation claims are easy to make and hard to disprove," says Eric Goldman, an assistant professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. "It's not entirely clear that Cobb wins even if everything he says is true."