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Facebook Court Case Illustrates That Design DOES Matter

22 April, 2015

Facebook Court Case Illustrates That Design DOES Matter

Design is a critical element of any data centre. So much so that a British company has taken Facebook to court for allegedly stealing its ideas. The complaint has caused quite the buzz in California’s District Court of San Jose, and highlights that data centre design is definitely a key matter to consider.

Late last month, British modular data centre group BladeRoom Group (BRG) lodged a court case against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of stealing its ideas. The alleged theft encompassed several different areas, including initial designs, transportation and construction techniques.

The official complaint was a joint effort from BRG and Bripco, the company’s intellectual property licensor. According to corporate lawyers, the radical rapid deployment data centre (RDDC) unveiled by Facebook was actually stolen from BRG. According to the British company, the use of modular design and pre-fabricated parts was pioneered and patented in the late 2000s. The group referred to these as ‘BladeRooms’ and was shocked to see that Facebook has blatantly replicated the design.

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"What Facebook did not disclose, however, was that this methodology and the detailed know-how supporting its use had in fact been stolen by Facebook from BRG," reads the official court document which has been leaked by several US news stations.

While BRG was invested in talks with Facebook regarding a contract for several modular data centre builds, the job was eventually passed onto US based company, Emerson. However, BRG maintains that Facebook continued to use its intellectual property to construct its new builds. 

Adding salt to the wound was the fact that Facebook then went on to publish its new designs on popular tech project website, OpenCompute. For BRG, this was the final straw. "Facebook went further when it decided to encourage others to use BRG's intellectual property as well as revealing BRG's confidential information through an initiative called the 'OpenCompute project'," reads the complaint.

As well as seeking out financial compensation, BRG claims that Facebook’s intellectual data theft has caused ongoing "irreparable harm" to its operations.  The complaint claims that compensation "cannot be fully redressed through damages alone" which is likely to lead to an eye-wateringly high settlement request.

So what can we learn from the Facebook vs BladeRoom battle? One of the key lessons is that good design is worth the investment. Not all data centre companies are created equal and when a group knows that it is onto something, it will do everything it can’t protect its intelligence. 

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