Maria Montero

Smartcar accuses Otonomo, a rival financed with $ 50M, of plagiarism …

Ruthless copying is common in technology. Just ask Snapchat. However, it is typically more conceptual than literal. But car The startup of API Smartcar claims that its competitor Otonomo copied and pasted Smartcar’s API documentation, allegedly has extensively plagiarized it to the point of including typos from the original and randomly generated code strings. He has posted a series of parallel screenshots detailing the alleged theft of his intellectual property.

Smartcar CEO Sahas Katta says: “We have evidence that several of their employees consistently use our product with behavior indicating that they wanted to copy our product in both form and function.” Now, a spokesperson for the startup tells me: “And the withdrawal letter, delivered to Otonomo this morning, which contains documented aspects of different violations and violations.”

The accusations are concerning given that Otonomo is not an inconsequential upstart. The Israel-based company has raised more than $ 50 million since its founding in 2015, and its investors include auto parts giant Aptiv (formerly Delphi) and the prestigious VC firm Bessemer Ventures Partners. Lisa Joy of Cton de Otonomo provided this statement in response to the allegations, noting that she will investigate, but is confident that she acted with integrity:

Autumn is proud to offer a completely unique offering backed by our own intellectual property and patents. We take Smartcar’s questions seriously and are conducting an investigation, but remain confident that our rigorous standards of integrity remain intact. If our investigation reveals a problem, we will immediately take the necessary steps to resolve it.

Both startups are trying to create an API layer that connects car data with application developers so they can build products that can locate, unlock, or leverage vehicle data. The 20-person Mountain View-based Smartcar has raised $ 12 million from Andreessen Horowitz and NEA. A deciding factor in deciding who will win in this market is which platform offers the best documentation that makes API integration easy for developers.

“A few days ago, we came across Otonomo’s publicly available API documentation. As we read it, we quickly realized that something was wrong. It seemed familiar. Strangely familiar. That’s because we wrote it, “explains Smartcar on his blog.” Not only did we find some vague similarities with the Smartcar documentation. The Otonomo documents are a systematically written scam of ours, from the general structure, to code samples and even typographical errors. “

The above screenshot comparing the API documentation of Smartcar on the left and Otonomo on the right seems to show that Otonomo used a nearly identical format and the same randomly generated (highlighted) sample identifier as Smartcar. Other examples mark apparently identical code strings and snippets.

Founder and CEO of Smartcar Sahas Katta

Otonomo has withdrawn its documentation website docs.otonomo.io, but TechCrunch has reviewed a Wayback Machine Archive.org that displays this Otonomo site since April 5, 2019 and features sections that are identical to the documentation that Smartcar published on August 2018. That includes Smartcar’s typo “will be returned here”, and its randomly generated sample code placeholder “” 4a1b01e5-0497-417c-a30e-6df6ba33ba46 “appearing in the Wayback Machine copy of the docs. Fallout The typo was corrected in this version of the Fallout docs which is still publicly available, but that string of code remains.

“It would be a one-in-a-quintillion chance that they would fall into the same randomly generated chain,” Katta from Smartcar tells TechCrunch.

However, curiously, the CMO of Otonomo told TechCrunch that “the materials that [Smartcar] in its publication, all documents are publicly accessible, it is all content in the public domain. “But that is not true, Katta argues, given the definition of” public domain “it is content that belongs to the public that cannot be copied. “I hope not, considering. . . We have proper copyright notices at the bottom. Our product is our intellectual property. Like the Twilio or Stripe API documentation, it is published and publicly available, and is proprietary. “

Otonomo’s Lisa Joy noted that her startup is currently raising funds for its Series C, which reportedly already includes $ 10 million from South Korean energy and telecoms giant SK. “We’re in the middle of picking up a round right now. That round is not finished,” he told me. But if Otonomo gets a reputation for allegedly copying his API documents, that could hurt his position with developers and potentially jeopardize that round of financing.