law

Zillow Lawsuits

Google Versus Zollow Lawsuits

The Zillow lawsuits, or rather their trademarked names, are perhaps the most revealing revelations of greed and boorish behavior in Silicon Valley where arrogant leaders once promised an enviable meritocracy of brilliant companies and skillful workers who would fully embrace the golden words of Google founder Page: “don t be evil”. In doing so, these leaders allowed for a massive number of underpaid, inexperienced, and poorly trained individuals to pass through the doors of Google’s corporate headquarters where they formed what later would be known as the “disruptive innovation” movement. Worse, many of these new gurus became millionaires overnight as Google began to amass a fortune from the unpaid labor of these less than capable applicants. Now, the lawsuits are being used as a major legal case against a company that refused to make reasonable accommodations for those who sought advancement in their careers.

The lawsuits themselves are nothing new, nor are they entirely without merit.

However, the Zillow spokesperson said that the lawsuit was prompted by two different incidents. First, there was an applicant who applied to work for Yahoo! under a non-compete clause which stated that he or she could not work at any other Yahoo! websites or ventures for a year.

After a few months of employment, this individual began to work at Digg, the now bankrupt online news site.

Digg filed a suit against this applicant, which was later dropped by a federal judge. The second incident involved an applicant who worked at Microsoft, but only in a virtual capacity. While at this job, according to the spokesperson, this applicant began to learn about Google’s “non-compete” policies and began to use this information to further erode his employment opportunity with Microsoft. In both cases, the lawsuits were subsequently dismissed by the courts for lack of subject matter or legal grounds.

This isn’t the first time that Google has had to deal with Zillow lawsuits.

In fact, back in 2021, the search engine giant was sued by Zillow over non-compete clauses. In that case, Zillow claimed that the search engine giant was liable for releasing Hadoop, which is a data warehouse management system that is used by many large organizations, including Google, to track and index web pages. In a related case, a Florida court ordered Google to pay damages to Zillow founder Mark Link to correct alleged patent infringements on Hadoop. Although Google had to pay damages in that case, it was able to continue using Hadoop under a non-compete agreement.

If Zillow’s complaints are not enough to persuade even the most cautious business owners to invest in document review software, what’s to say about the company’s own definition of non-compete and their rationale for applying it in the case of Zillow?

The Zillow lawsuit states that the non-compete should bar Google from “using” the Zillow website in its efforts to compete with Zillow in any way. Google’s counsel, David Bailey, has vigorously rejected this interpretation of the non-compete provisions in the hollows. Instead, he has suggested that the Zillow lawsuits result from an attempt on the part of Zillow to illegally steal trade secrets through what’s known as a “caveat emptor” (a phrase that’s been adopted by law professors throughout the United States).

Most fundamentally, Google is guilty of sending a clear message about the value of having smart, talented and non-corruptible silicon valley based engineers on board.

Google cannot be accused of wanting to exclude anyone from the talent market – especially not when it openly discusses the need to recruit the best people in the business and encourages innovation. Rather than try to use these latest disclosures to deflect blame, Google should be more proactive about correcting the record on this issue. While Zillow is involved in one lawsuit, Google has many additional options at its disposal to avoid creating yet another issue with the HFT crowd – or at least make it very clear where they stand on the matter.

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