Big data startup Palantir has slapped one of its early investors with an unusual lawsuit.
The company alleges that investor Marc Abramowitz learned about new business ideas from Palantir and then went out and tried to patent those ideas for himself.
In its suit, first spotted by Law.com, the company says that Abramowitz was an early investor in Palantir, backing the company in 2005. Palantir was founded in 2004.
The company alleges that three of Abramowitz’s patent applications, filed in 2015, were ideas that came from Palantir. One of them is for a patent that covers big data analysis for the oil and gas industry; one is a patent to cover big data analysis for medical clinical trials, and the third is for the cyber security rating for buying insurance to cover hack attacks.
In the patents, Abramowitz names himself as the inventor.
In its suit, Palantir’s lawyers claim that Abramowitz had become such a trusted advisor to the company over the years that at one point he actually asked for his own office at Palantir’s headquarters. And, the suit claims he offered to spin-out a subsidiary and run it to pursue the security insurance idea. But Palantir didn’t pursue that suggestion.
The strangest part: The company is alleging that the investor tried to trademark the word “Shire.” The company’s name is a reference from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, where, in that tale, the hero’s home is referred to as the “Shire.” Palantir does big data analysis for many government agencies and law enforcement and Palantir’s motto is “Save the Shire.”
So, the allegations that an investor was trying to take the word “Shire” and own the trademark are pretty strange.
The lawsuit doesn’t give any rationale for why one of its major, trusted long-term investors would do all the things Palantir alleges he is doing.
But the suit gives us a some insight into Palantir, one of the most secretive companies in the Valley, and the many ways it is selling its data sifting tech. The company is said to have $1.7 billion worth of revenue under contract and one source told Business Insider said it expects to bring up to $700 million of revenue this year. But it is, also, reportedly still not profitable.
Abramowitz is a lawyer and an investor who was known in the early 2000’s as a turnaround investor/operator. He previously worked for Riverlake Partners.
Abramowitz could not be reached for comment. Palantir has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Here’s a copy of the suit, posted by Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts.
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