A small Chicago-based software company is accusing Google of ripping off a tool it developed that allows Microsoft Outlook e-mail users to shift over to Gmail.
LimitNone, which filed suit this week, said its losses are close to $1 billion (£500 million). Google violated consumer fraud laws in Illinois as well as misappropriating trade secrets, the company alleges.
LimitNone, which focused on building around Google products, said it showed executives from Google's Apps team its tool called "My Grate" in early 2007. Google Apps is a suite of Web-based business applications, including word processing and a spreadsheet, that competes with Microsoft's Office franchise. My Grate enabled users to move their e-mail, calendar and contacts over to Gmail.
Google then allegedly invited LimitNone to be part of its Google Enterprise Professional Programme in order to further develop the programme and promised not to develop a competing product.
Google renamed the product "Gmove" and also asked LimitNone to drop the price from $29 to $19. It eventually was introduced to major companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Intel, the travel site Orbitz and investment bank Morgan Stanley, according to the suit.
LimitNone said Google then rolled out a competing product, called "Google E-mail Uploader" in December 2007, a free offering that mimicked their application's look and feel.
LimitNone also said it was told by a senior executive on the Google Apps team that up to 50 million users were expected to benefit from the tool, and that the application was "too big to come from someone else".