Emerson Electric Co. is set to pay $30m in damages to UK-based prefabricated module manufacturer BladeRoom, after a jury in California agreed that the company used stolen designs to build Facebook’s data center in Sweden.
BladeRoom will receive $10m in compensation for the profits lost, and $20m to make up for Emerson’s “unjust enrichment.”
It’s not about the money, money, money
The compensation totaled significantly less than the $300m BladeRoom set out to receive in damages, but one of the company’s attorneys told Law360 that it wasn’t disappointed by the sum, as it was a matter of principle, and “never has been” about the money.
The case dates back to 2011, when Facebook began discussions with the British company, suggesting that it might wish to commission BladeRoom to build a data center using its patented flatpack design.
However the contract was subsequently offered to Emerson, which had taken part in meetings with the two companies and, like Facebook, signed a non-disclosure agreement when it was introduced to the flatpack technology.
In addition to using the design to build the data center in Luleå, Sweden, BladeRoom alleged that the pair had integrated its technology in presentations made to the Open Compute Project (OCP), violating both the non-disclosure agreement and the OCP rules.
BladeRoom filed its suit in 2015, and both Emerson and Facebook were set to go to court – with heavily confrontational interactions between the three groups’ lawyers in the months leading up to it – but Facebook decided to settle as the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted.
Emerson and BladeRoom subsequently spent 20 days in court, but the jury took less than a day to reach a verdict, concluding that Emerson either disclosed or used two of four trade secrets in the construction of Facebook’s Luleå facility, acting in a “willful and malicious” way.
The British company’s case rested on six crucial documents which showed that Facebook and Emerson conspired to use BladeRoom’s designs without commissioning its services.
These included an email in which the pair agreed to have a “direct debrief” after meetings with BladeRoom, an internal document that stated their intention of working “with Emerson, to build a BladeRoom solution” and an email between Emerson employees discussing the “leveraging what BladeRoom has done.”
An Emerson attorney said that the company would “definitely” appeal the jury’s verdict.