Vendor claims HP stole Web testing software invention

Hewlett-Packard allegedly first kicked the tires on Software Research's tech, then stole their ideas, according to a lawsuit

A California software vendor is claiming that Hewlett-Packard officials evaluated its eValid website testing technology, then subsequently stole its intellectual property for use in a rival product released last year, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Software Research, based in San Francisco, was founded in 1978 by its CEO, Edward Miller, according to the complaint, which was filed April 6.

EValid stems from research Miller began in 1997 as he tried to find a way to improve performance testing for "rich, interactive websites," the complaint stated. "After significant effort and expenditure, Dr. Miller invented ... a method that entailed building the software test tools into a browser ... thereby performing performance, stress and load testing efficiently, reliably, reproducibly and quickly."

Software Research has received two patents related to the technology, according to the complaint.

HP's alleged theft stemmed from interactions the company had with Software Research in 2008, it said.

At that time, "HP did not offer a test enabled web browser testing tool," the complaint stated. HP set up some conference calls with Software Research in early 2008, saying it was interested in evaluating eValid, it added.

During those meetings as well as in "detailed e-mail exchanges," Miller explained how eValid worked to several HP employees. The explanations included written answers to "detailed technical questions" HP posed, it stated.

Software Research also gave HP a copy of eValid, which it used for evaluation purposes, according to the complaint. HP was made aware that eValid was protected under an issued patent, and that other patents were pending, it stated.

However, "after fully evaluating SRI's eValid product, HP told [Software Research] that HP had no interest in offering a test-enabled web browser product," the complaint stated. "HP then broke off discussions."

Last year, HP released TruClient, a product "it characterized as a 'completely revolutionary' testing solution for websites," the complaint added. TruClient is part of HP's LoadRunner suite. A LoadRunner product manager had met with Software Research in 2008, it states.

TruClient infringes Software Research's patents "and is precisely the product that HP previously told [Software Research] that HP would not release," it added.

SRI is asking for an injunction barring HP from using the patents, as well as various damages.

As of Thursday, HP had not filed a response to Software Research's claim. An HP spokesman said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

At one point, Software Research apparently viewed TruClient's release as a positive.

"Many here at eValid think that HP's announcement represents a real "sea change" in the community," reads a Dec. 12 post on the official eValid forum attributed to "the eValid Team."

"Previously the position by the 'big three' was that simulating the behavior of an AJAX user on an application could be adequately handled with the "http/s traffic generation" methods that have been highly developed over time," it added. "So this is a victory -- perhaps even a genuine vindication, if you will -- for the eValid approach, which has ALWAYS been based on the use of the fully automated eValid browser."

"The HP solution appears (we have not yet had direct experience with it) to be based on the Selenium solution, in which JavaScript executions drive the browser," the post also stated. "If that's the case, then the objections we have always expressed about the JavaScript approach would apply equally to HP's offering: High overhead, skewing of timing data, lack of scaling, and the requirement to be a programmer to get useful results."

It was not clear Thursday when Software Research officials came to believe that HP's product was in fact violating its patents. An attorney for the company as well as a spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Tags legalsoftwareHewlett-Packardapplication developmentSoftware Research Inc.

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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