Google and Groupon have gone from courtship to court in less than a year. Groupon, the Chicago-based technology start-up that emails 142.9 million people a day with a money-off coupons for a local businesses, is suing two of its former sales managers for allegedly stealing trade secrets from the company when they went to work for Google.
Google made a $6bn takeover offer for Groupon last winter but, when that was rebuffed, it set up its rival "daily deals" service called Google Offers – and, according to a lawsuit filed in a Chicago court, poached two key managers who left Groupon in September with confidential information. Michael Nolan, who worked for Groupon for two years, and Brian Hanna, who joined in January, are the subject of the lawsuit. Both worked in Chicago. Google is not a defendant.
"In their new positions with Google Offers and/or Google, Hanna and Nolan will provide the same or similar services as they provided at Groupon" requiring them "to employ confidential and proprietary information that they learned while employed at Groupon", according to the complaint.
Groupon is seeking a court order to prevent its former employees disclosing information such as customer lists and sales and marketing plans that it says would "irreparably" harm the company if used.
Google, with its huge sales and marketing infrastructure, represents one of the most serious competitors to Groupon, which has seen an explosion in the number of copycat firms.
Concern about the competitive landscape is dogging Groupon's attempt to float its shares in the US. It said last week it planned to raise up to $540m at a price that values the company at $11.4bn.