Calif. Company Hits Yahoo with IP Suit

Move over Microsoft and Google. California-based Nuance Communications, makers of voice automation technology, said on Friday they planned to sue Yahoo in order to prevent the company from hiring 13 of its engineers. The company also accuses Yahoo of attempting to steal its intellectual property. The engineers were working on a project for Nuance known as Directory Assistance Automation, which would negate the need for a live person to search for telephone numbers.

The venture was about three-quarters of the way done before Nuance’s vice president of research and development, Larry Heck, left for a job with Yahoo. Twelve engineers later followed Heck, also accepting positions within Yahoo. Nuance’s attorney Jeffrey Chanin accused Yahoo in court documents of attempting to copy the company’s work, which would then position Yahoo as a direct competitor to Nuance’s business. Also, he claimed Yahoo is breaking California’s anti-competition laws through the hiring of the development team. Nuance would not comment on the lawsuit. The company has high hopes for its technology, which it said could soon allow searching of the Internet by voice instead of a keyboard, above and beyond its currently proposed use. Nuance’s suit is the latest in a string of lawsuits by tech companies attempting to protect their intellectual property.

An ongoing case between Microsoft and Google also revolves around the hiring of a high-ranking executive, and Apple earlier sued several enthusiast sites over the leaks of what it called “trade secrets,” a move later backed by both Intel and the Business Software Alliance. A request for comment from Yahoo had not been answered as of press time.


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