Rows of cabinets inside Facebook's Lulea data center. (Photo: Facebook)

Court Throws Out Facebook’s Motion to Dismiss Data Center Design Lawsuit

A judge in Silicon Valley last week ruled against Facebook’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a British data center builder in 2015 alleging that the social network misappropriated its trade secrets.

The secrets in question are designs and methods for building modular data centers. BladeRoom, one of the two companies that filed the complaint, claims Facebook and Emerson Electric (whose data center subsidiary Emerson Network Power has since been spun out and renamed as Vertiv), lured it and Bripco (the other plaintiff), into disclosing their designs and methods and then turned around and used them to build a data center in Sweden on their own.

The two British companies are accusing Facebook and Emerson of enticing “them to reveal their data center designs and construction methods with promises of acquisition and partnership, only to then copy those designs and methods and pass them off as their own,” according to court documents. The plaintiffs are also alleging that Facebook disclosed their trade secrets publicly through the Open Compute Project, its open source data center and hardware design initiative.

BladeRoom licenses the design and methodology from Bripco, which owns the rights.

A judge in the San Jose division of the California Northern District of the US District Court threw out most of Facebook’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, concluding that BladeRoom and Bripco have made a sufficient-enough argument to continue litigation. The court did dismiss a part in which the plaintiffs accused Facebook of using the trade secrets to compete against them commercially.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the post if and when we hear back.

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About the Author

San Francisco-based business and technology journalist. Editor in chief at Data Center Knowledge, covering the global data center industry.

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