Jul 10, 2017 / Insight

Google Faces Punitive Damages in AfroReggae Lawsuit

In a recent order, Santa Clara County Judge William Elfving has ruled that Grupo Cultural AfroReggae, a Brazilian nonprofit, will be allowed to pursue a punitive damages award from Google Inc., one of Silicon Valley’s most iconic companies. A copy of the Order can be found here.

AfroReggae, represented by Cypress LLP, has alleged breach of an agreement between the two organizations to share credit for a project called Além do Mapa (in English, “Beyond the Map”). Além do Mapa was the second stage of a partnership to digitally street-map Rio de Janiero’s favelas – some of Brazil’s poorest and most inaccessible neighborhoods – and share the residents’ culture and inspiring stories.

AfroReggae first developed the idea for the project, originally called Tá No Mapa (in English, “Be on the Map”) in 2012. Google joined the project as AfroReggae’s partner in 2014.

AfroReggae’s lawsuit alleges that, with the world’s attention fixed on Brazil in the run-up to and during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Google launched a publicity campaign in which it took exclusive credit for Além do Mapa. The lawsuit further alleges that, in doing so, Google engaged in fraud. The court found that the following allegations of fraud, if proved, could support an award of punitive damages: (1) Google intentionally misrepresented that AfroReggae would be given a partnership credit in exchange for its involvement with the project, and (2) Google concealed its intention to deny AfroReggae its partnership credit. A copy of the First Amended Complaint can be found here.

Judge Elfving’s decision is an important step in AfroReggae’s ability to substantiate its intellectual property rights and secure an appropriate damages award from Google. “The loss of the goodwill and publicity that AfroReggae was entitled to receive as Google’s partner in the Além do Mapa project, in combination with the timing of events, namely, during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, should more than justify punitive damages,” said Bob Muller, AfroReggae’s trial counsel.

Further information regarding the case, Grupo Cultural AfroReggae v. Google Inc. et al., can be found here.