What if Google+ stole my idea? Can I do anything about it? Should I?


38

From around March 2009 to October 2009, my sister and I built a website and dubbed it our "first startup": Jumpino.com. Truthfully, it was hardly a startup: we had no capital, no way of monetizing, and not too much exposure. It was (and it remains) a website that two kids thought would be a cool idea to make. We stopped updating it early 2010 due to the fact that work and school took priority over Jumpino - a more or less hobbyist project.

Last week I started getting Facebook messages to the likes of:

Sup Dave,

Just saw a post that made me
think of you so I thought I'd send you
internet messages.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwnJ5Bl4kLI Looks like Google+ is a Jumpino rip
off, hopefully they bought it from
you, but I don't think you were that
lucky.

At first, I didn't pay it much attention (and I didn't even watch the video). I'm not a believer in conspiracy theories and I haven't really cared about Jumpino for almost a year now - I just keep it online alongside my many other projects. But then I started getting more and more messages...
dude, if you haven't heard of Google
Plus (Google+) yet look it up. They're
using the same term/idea you used with
Jumpino with the circle thing.
...and I became more interested in the situation.

It's undeniable that some similarities between the Google+ video posted above and our initial Jumpino videos posted in 2009 are uncanny:

The parallelism between examples, the idea of (social) circles as sort of chat/share groups, the colorful arrow crayon aesthetic seen on http://plus.google.com/ are all eerily reminiscent of our initial videos and the Jumpino website, respectively. The graphical multiply effects seen on http://www.google.com/intl/en-US/+/demo/ are also similar to our own multiply effects (on the Jumpino logo).

I concede that this may just be a huge coincidence and I honestly can't imagine that Google would maliciously steal ideas/design elements. With that said, the combination of the website design, conceptual idea, and video presentation made me feel a bit strange (as if I was seeing Jumpino 2.0 so to speak).

Maybe the people that have been messaging me are way off-base and I've just been caught up in this whirlwind of conspiracy. Should I just move on with my life or take some sort of action? What would you do in my position?

Edit : Thanks for all the comments! This question grew quickly and it went into a direction I could have predicted :) I'll leave it open for now as I think it sparked some interesting discussion but there are obviously many good answers!

My sister wrote an interesting article regarding (specifically) the design elements: http://noemi.ro/2011/07/05/did-google-plus-steal-design-elements-also-the-things-money-cannot-buy/ for anyone that may be interested.

Ideas Google Intellectual Property

asked Jul 5 '11 at 05:46
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David Titarenco
405 points
  • Even if they didn't steal your idea, Atleast they should acquire your startup. Because it may bug them alot. – Ryan 7 years ago
  • [xkcd](http://xkcd.com/827/) to the rescue... – John C 7 years ago
  • I came in here expecting entertaining conspiracy accusations; why did you have to ruin it with your calm rationality??? Seriously though, there are noticeable similarities, but good designers think similar, and that'll be my take-away from this situation: you have a talent for good design and a passion to realize them, spend them on some new project and I'm sure you'll benefit much more than from spending your time on lawyers. – Sundar 7 years ago
  • Facebook ripped off Myspace, but Myspace doesn't get a cut from Facebook. This leads me to believe that Internet ideas can be stolen. – Jo Jo 7 years ago
  • Umm... Since there is absolutely nothing new in or about Google+, just a good (?) implementation, I would have to ask, if they stole your idea, who did *you* "steal" it from? – Avi D 7 years ago
  • LOL at AvidD`s comment!!! – Rg 3 7 years ago

11 Answers


60

Ideas are useless. As you said, you "had no capital, no way of monetizing, and not too much exposure". You even admit to having stopped work on it over 18 months ago. Basically, this was a failed startup. It would be one thing if you at least had some interesting technology that would make them worth acquiring- but you don't.

So what exactly did google steal? The idea of grouping people together is not exactly new, and people have referring to their social groups as "social circles " for a long time now. Honestly I doubt they even saw your site- you have very little marketing or exposure, so they probably don't even know you exist.

As far as I'm concerned this is just sour grapes. To answer your question, just move on. You're reading far more into this than you should, and even if they did take your "ideas" there isn't anything you can do unless you patented them.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 06:59
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Tedivm
636 points
  • +1 for "The idea of grouping people together is not exactly new, and people have referring to their social groups as "social circles" is hardly new." – Loudandclear 7 years ago
  • Exactly. It's apparent after watching the Jumpino video that there are a number of differences between it an Google+. For example, the circles are public and people have to join, as opposed to Google's implementation where circles are a way for a user to privately organize their friends. Pretty much the only things that are similar is that it's a social network with groups of people called "circles". – Kyle Cronin 7 years ago
  • +1 - this and one other answer are useful - all the others are a waste of time. To the OP - Move on with your life. – Tim J 7 years ago
  • Yup, but also learn that if you dont MOVE project ideas, someone else will have the same idea within 3-5 years - those running for the goal, might make it. Giving up = it wasnt your true goal at the time. Also be proud! you were able to spot a great idea in good time. Now do it again Einstein! – Berggreen Dk 7 years ago
  • Forget 3-5 years... There's probably a hundred other people out there with all the same exact ideas at the same time you had them. With the population this large and connected, there are no truly unique ideas anymore. There's only people that can execute them well enough to get to market first! – Brian Knoblauch 7 years ago
  • read clay shirkey - grouping people in small "circles" is a well documented and powerful philosophy – Iwayneo 7 years ago
  • There are a couple things that should have been protected: 1 - trademark "Circles" for social internet sites 2 - patent the specific ways in which people are invited to and share information within a Circle, where it is different to all other existing art. – User48956 7 years ago
  • Wow! This answer makes me realize that how fast and competitive one has to be to remain in the market. – I Sid 6 years ago
  • Agree with this. It takes a lot of experience to finally realize that ideas are worthless - implementation is everything. If you work in game development or any creative concept, you'll see how often seemingly very similar ideas reappear. Having a practical idea is far harder than having a great idea. – Muz 5 years ago

39

The smart thing to do would be to attach it to a resume and send it to Google.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 11:09
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Tim
399 points
  • Now there's a great idea, Google is hiring [0] like mad this year, and showing them you came up with their idea 2 years ago might be a good icebreaker. [0] http://www.google.com/intl/en/jobs/index.htmlSverre Rabbelier 7 years ago
  • I do not agree. Move on and start your next gig! It will be way more exciting than an engineering job at Google! – Zengr 7 years ago

15

Similar to tedivm's answer, ideas are a dime a dozen, it's all about the execution.

Unless you went to the extent of applying for grant of copyright, trademark, and/or patent there is not much recourse outside of having bragging rights that you came up with this concept in 2009 and that it was validated by Google's successful implementation.

My recommendation to you is to move on. If creating a successful startup is what you and your sister have in your blood, just move on to another idea knowing that you got "the idea" part right before and that you need to work on "the execution" next time.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 07:35
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Noomerikal
151 points
  • +1 - just about the only useful answer of them all. – Tim J 7 years ago
  • There's no such thing as applying for grant of copyright. Copyright either comes with publication (in most countries, including the US) or is obtained by adding a copyright notice (in some other countries). – Joriki 7 years ago

15

Google+ is based heavily on work by Paul Adam who did the research for Google.

He also has a presentation called The Real Life Social Network for which he mentions where he got his info from here: http://www.thinkoutsidein.com/blog/2010/07/data-behind-real-life-social-network/ He also published a paper Communication mapping: understanding anyone's social network in 60 minutes in 2007.

I think in this case, he can prove the thinking and research that went into the product, so it might be difficult to topple this.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 17:23
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David D C E Freitas
253 points
  • Who knows, Paul Adam might have visited Jumpino.com and like the idea? – I Sid 6 years ago

7

Let's say that yeah, someone at Google saw Jumpino and said, "Hey, that's a good idea." So they went to Andy Hertzfeld and the other guys at Google and said, "Look at this Jumpino thing. Think we can do it better?"

Well, that's what they did. And if this were the case, someone in Google's legal department did IP due diligence. When that turned up nil, someone in development said they could build it cheaper. Someone in marketing said that Jumpino had about ten users so buying it was not worthwhile. And now we have Google+.

Now you can either move on or, I don't know, sue Google. Just remember that looking at something and saying, "I can do that better!" is 99% of what startups do.

answered Jul 6 '11 at 03:57
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Robert S.
171 points

2

Your take-home from this ought to be, "hey - I can come up with great ideas! Next time, maybe I'll take my ideas to the next stage."

The chances that Google's latest attempt to disrupt facebook is a clone of your site are pretty low. And the way you describe it, it's not clear that even if they had - directly or indirectly - that would represent any kind of infringement of legally protectable properties of yours. You should consult a lawyer if you want a reliable opinion!

As you'll hear time and time again round here, ideas are ten a penny, it's execution that creates value. And in this space, creating value is hard, maybe impossible, to monetize directly.

Get back into the creative mood that led you to jumpino.com, and find a new idea. At least you can pitch it (to investors, to partners, maybe to Google) as having come from the people who came up with the Google+ idea a couple years ahead of its time!

answered Jul 5 '11 at 22:21
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Jeremy Parsons
5,187 points

1

It shows that you can think up good ideas and that they can be monetized (well maybe) so stop worrying about something you can do nothing about and get to work on the next one with more confidence.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 18:48
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Purple Pilot
111 points

1

STOP actually I invented the social circles or social bubbles as I called them back in 2007

So you and Google have both stolen my idea.

I have contacted Google but so far they have failed to comment!

http://www.smsbubble.com/

answered Sep 12 '11 at 23:56
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Brian Moreau
11 points

1

When you're the "underdog" you may as well turn it to your advantage.

Google has already validated the "idea" and made the circle-thing stick with people. They've done the hard work.

You need to find a specific niche where you can be a little bit different than Google+. Enough different to be interesting to some people to maybe actually pay money for it.

One possibility could be to make it possible for companies to install it internally to make casual conversation between coworkers easier. Push on the security issues with G+ and owning their own data, knowledge spreading, etc.

Be creative about it.

The point being: see how you can be different and at the same time compare yourself with Google+. Google is too large to go after a specific niche market. Exploit that.

Anyway, just my $0.02...

answered Sep 13 '11 at 00:54
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Anders Hansson
606 points

1

Honestly, I would love if google could actually implement the idea of my dream, because I'll never have enough resources and/or skill and/or time to make it work.

Here is another question: do you think we should be able to patent ideas ?

On the other hand, best of luck for trying to tell them, "I had the same idea, can you hire me ?"

answered Jul 8 '11 at 19:21
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Jokoon
111 points

0

File a patent ASAP. Unlike other countries, in the US, you can still file a patent event after your idea goes public. Your videos and other evidence of your product may be useful. Even if Google has filed a patent on this idea, you may still be able to get a patent if you can show your idea predates theirs. However, if Google has already been granted a patent, you might not be able to prevent them from using your idea.

You may also be able to register a trademark Circles. Again, the ability to demonstrate that you have been using the name for so long may be useful.

Talk to a patent lawyer, or repost on patent/trademark websites.

Update:

Re expensive: Filing a patent need not be expensive. Here's a list of fees for self filing: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee2009september15.htm#patapp Also see books on self-filing: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=how+to+file+a+patent&x=0&y=0 Re ideas: If you can describe your idea as an invention, you can patent it. Only inventions are patentable.

Re: international filing: depends on whether you want to sue/defend your patent internationally. Being able to sue a multi-national in the US only has its uses. I'm not sure there would be much to gain in this case.

I would recommend companies file patents on any novel things that make their company run. Its just something you need to do, period. Even if you're not interested in suing someone, having your product described in your patent provides prior-art and a defense from lawsuits by trolls and competitors. Having a collection of patents hugely increases the value of a company and provides a stick that can use in a more offensive way if things get ugly. For example, if Google sued you, with a patent would be able to go to the ITC and request that Google stop using the infringing products and claim damages. Google has more to lose in this standoff.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 12:33
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User48956
119 points
  • My understanding is that patents can cost tens of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds/millions, especially if international) and take many years. Then even if you have a patent so what? You need to have the money to defend it. This is just my limited understanding so don't quote me on this. Can anyone confirm? – Row1 7 years ago
  • Ideas cannot be patented... – Siamii 7 years ago
  • I'm probably wrong, but I thought in the US you could patent an idea, Apple do it all the time – Rob 7 years ago
  • Perhaps you can't patent an idea, but you can certainly patent a "clean homepage": http://j.mp/ivSd7G Let's just hope that nobody gets smart and patents dirty homepages, or we'll all be forced to go homepage-less. – Dlras2 7 years ago

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