Corbis Stole Trade Secrets, Times Reports (Months Later)

Today's New York Times includes a story about a jury verdict and $20 million judgment against Corbis for stealing trade secrets and defrauding a Seattle start-up company called InfoFlows, which had been hired to help the stock agency develop an image fingerprinting and tracking system to fight online infringement.

It's a compelling David-and-Goliath story about an entrepreneur named Steve Stone who entrusted Corbis with his company's unpatented technology secrets back around 2005. Stone later claimed that Corbis was patenting that technology behind his back as their own intellectual property, as they were pumping him for information. 

"The irony is that Corbis is an intellectual property company, and here they are stealing someone else's intellectual property," Stone tells PDN.

One problem with the Times story, though, is that it is last summer's news. The jury verdict came down in August 2009. The trial court affirmed the verdict last February. And now, almost a year later, the Times glosses over the date of the verdict as if it happened yesterday (yeah, we missed it, too).

Corbis spokesperson Dan Perlet says Stone "has been seeking coverage on this for ages and finally convinced the NY Times." Stone says he just started speaking publicly about the case because his talks with Corbis to settle it (and avoid their legal appeal) finally broke down.

In a statement that Perlet provided, Corbis says the court applied an erroneous legal standard in upholding the jury verdict. "The terms [of a contract between Corbis and InfoFlows] were clear that Corbis would pay InfoFlows to build a license management solution conceived and designed by Corbis, and that Corbis would own any resulting intellectual property."

We'll see about that when the appeals court rules. And we'll try not to miss it this time.

One Response to “Corbis Stole Trade Secrets, Times Reports (Months Later)”

  1. KB Says:

    Corbis would certainly like to believe that the jury’s verdict and the Court judgment are old news (what else can they say???). But fraud, breach of contract, bad faith conduct and trade secret misappropriation are not sins that disappear with a news cycle. If you read the court records, you will see that they reflect Corbis making strenuous efforts to keep this story from ever seeing the light of day.
    The timeline is irrelevant – the case is ongoing, in appeal and it is not old news. Regardless, it doesn’t change the facts of the story, which is a valuable one for the industry to hear as it presents a case study that other small startups can learn from.
    The bigger issue and question that should be asked is: WHY?