Was an ex-employee guilty of stealing an idea?
In 2001, a former employee created a Web based service for the distribution of financial data that was deemed by his former employer to be identical to a concept that they had been working on.
I was engaged by the employee (the Defendant) to comment on whether the product he had developed was identical to the one being developed by his former employer (The Claimant).
I looked at whether code might have been copied but because the Claimant had not proceeded to develop their product there was no code to copy. I investigated whether the Claimant's concept was unique in the market and found several other similar services available. Part of the claim related to the idea of a "site in a box", i.e. a Web site that could be set up very quickly but customised for each client. I found and listed several examples of other template derived Web sites available in 2000.
My summary concluded:
- The concept of displaying financial data on a web site was not unique at August 2000 - see the list of example sites in the section headed "Was the basic concept unique?".
- The principle of using a reusable template web site was not unique at August 2000 - see the examples in the section headed "Was the basic concept unique?".
- Other than the similarity in the type of data and the intended recipients of that data I do not find any evidence that the defendant copied the "site in a box" product.
The case went to The High Court in London and I attended, briefly giving evidence.