Waze, an app that offers crowdsourced information on traffic, and owner Google find themselves in a spot of legal trouble after a Washington D.C.-based mapping service called PhantomAlert has filled a lawsuit against the two companies. PhantomAlert alleges that, prior to its acquisition by Google in 2013 for $1.1-billion, Waze stole information from its mapping database.
The suit was filed today, but what’s fascinating about it is the potential evidence that will be used to determine the outcome of the case. Per The Verge, mapmakers often use something called something paper towns—that is, fictitious locations that act as a kind of watermark—to help them see if someone, or in this case, some company, has stolen their work. In the case of PhantomAlert, it says it was able to determine Waze stole from it when it was able to find its own fake points of interest in the company’s iOS and Android apps.
“Among other methods, PhantomAlert determined that Waze had copied its Points of Interest database by observing the presence of fictitious Points of Interest in the Waze application, which PhantomAlert had seeded into its own database for the purpose of detecting copying,” says the complaint from PhantomAlert.
PhantomAlert alleges that Waze stole its database of data, fake points of interest and all, at some point in 2010. That year Waze had approached the company with the suggestion that they share databases, but PhantomAlert rejected the offer, believing Waze’s database to be insubstantial.
PhatomAlert is asking that Google shut down Waze and pay it an unspecified amount in damages.