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Gaiaware threatens with legal actions against ra-ajax

Earlier this fall I was surprised to come back reality (after traveling for ten months) to see that Thomas Hansen had left Gaiaware, the company he founded, because of major disagreements with the management. He then went on to form his own company offering a similar product called ra-ajax and he is now being potentially sued by his previous employer. Both Gaia Ajax and ra-ajax are Ajax frameworks for asp.net. They both claim to be better, faster and easier to use than Microsoft's own Ajax asp.net. They are both mainly created by Thomas Hansen and he is a brilliant developer so I am sure his claims are correct.

So what happened with Gaiaware and ra-ajax?

Back in August Thomas announced he had resigned from his position at Gaiaware with reasons for disagreements in strategy, product features and basically everything else that can be disagreed upon with the new CEO Bård Strainheim, previously CEO (and founder?) of Gatsoft. Thomas goes into great length on his blog about the history and the disagreements.

Thomas then founds ra-ajax and later on another developer from Gaiaware joined him. Ra-ajax is basically the same product with a new codebase but according to Thomas more lightweight and even better. Ra-ajax is also completely free and open-source (how are you going to feed your kids Thomas?).

But things does not stop there. I assume Gaiaware is not happy with losing the founder and brain behind their only product so they go to action. They have a meeting with Thomas and threatens to sue him if he did not agree to hand over the 25% shares he stills own in Gaiaware. The threat was based on Thomas creating a competing product. It should be strongly noted that this competing product, ra-ajax, is based on a new codebase. And as far as I know not based on any code from Gaiaware. However it still is a competing product but unless Gaiware has certain IP-rights in their contract I do not see how they can stop Thomas from making a competing product. For something new and unique I could understand but something as commodizied as an ajax framework which there are many other similar products on the market I cannot see how Gaiaware could claim IP-rights to the idea and restrict past employees in such a way.

After a new meeting Thomas gets an 'offer' from Gaiaware which involves him selling his 25% share in the company for $30,000, restrict ra-ajax to LGPL while offering a free MIT license to Gaiaware, a week training for the developers in Gaiaware and future consultation services as needed.

I am no lawyer and have not read the contracts involved in this case but it seems to be that this is not only unfair but also something that would probably not be the result in a court case. I think Thomas definitively should be strong in his case as he gives away and accepts a lot in his latest meeting with Gaiaware. Thomas also writes why they would win a potential court case against Gaiaware.

Written on 08 December 2008.
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