Google, the owner of the traffic app Waze, has managed to beat back a copyright lawsuit filed by lesser-known rival PhantomAlert.
Back in September 2015 PhantomAlert sued Google over allegations of copyright infringement. Google purchased Waze in June 2013 for over $1 billion. PhantomAlert alleged that, after a failed data-sharing deal between itself and Waze collapsed in 2010, Waze apparently stole PhantomAlert’s “points of interest” database.
In a judicial order filed earlier this month, the San Francisco-based federal judge found that PhantomAlert could not allege a copyright claim on simple facts of where different places actually are.
As US Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero wrote, granting Google’s motion to dismiss:
It is apparent from the allegations in the Complaint that Plaintiff’s Points of Interest are inherently factual, involving “traffic conditions, speed restrictions, and police-monitors,” that is, objective facts that can be discovered and reported. Compl. ¶ 17. The Supreme Court has made clear that facts are not copyrightable, though the creativity associated with the selection and arrangement of those facts in a compilation may be protectable (as discussed below). See Feist, 499 U.S. at 347-48. This rule applies even when the “facts” are inaccurate, as was the case in Feist, where the defendant had copied a handful of false listings that were “seeded” in the plaintiff’s directory. Id. at 344.
While it is possible to assert a copyright over a set of facts that are arranged or organized in a particular way, the court found that PhantomAlert had not done that. As Judge Spero continued:
Here, Plaintiff has not alleged any specific facts that suggest that the arrangement of the information in its Points of Interest database is characterized by any originality. There are no allegations that the data is organized into categories, for example, or that there is anything creative about the way the data is displayed. Further, to the extent Plaintiff alleges the information in the database is edited so as to alert the driver of the Point of Interest before reaching the actual location, see Compl. ¶ 22, there appears to be no creativity involved in these changes. As discussed above, the arrangement of the Points of Interest on the map merely effectuates the purpose of the database; presumably any app intended to alert drivers of the types of points of interest contained in Plaintiff’s database would make very similar changes.
However, the judge will allow PhantomAlert to file an amended complaint no later than mid-January 2016.
“We look forward to amending our complaint to reflect the significant creativity and judgment that underlie our client’s individual data elements, and its compilation of these data into an original database,” Karl Kronenberger, PhantomAlert’s attorney, told Ars via e-mail.