Why a Web company with four employees is suing Waze

8 09 2015

Washington Post

September 3, 2015

Five years ago, Joe Scott Seyoum, the founder of a tiny digital map company in Washington, D.C., said he received an offer from a hot new navigation app in Israel.

Waze, in its early stages, wanted to trade databases, Seyoum recalled. His business PhantomAlert could provide their developers a valuable glimpse at American roads.

Both smartphone apps collected input from drivers on the ground to guide users around red light cameras, school zones and snarled traffic. But Seyoum wasn’t interested in the streets abroad. He’d rather be bought out. The deal disintegrated.

Three years later, after Google acquired Waze for $1.3 billion, Seyoum, 45, claimed he was shocked to see his hard work appear, datapoint by datapoint, in Waze’s digital library.

“I could not believe my eyes,” he said. “I had to do a double take. A triple take. A quadruple take. I thought, ‘How is this possible?’”

PhantomAlert, his team of four employees, dug deeper — and, after two years of collecting evidence, filed a lawsuit this week in federal court against Waze, alleging the company swiped its information without permission.



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