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Yahoo Accused Of Raiding Workers 118

wellington map writes "Nuance Communications, a Menlo Park maker of speech-recognition software, has sued Yahoo for unfair competition and theft of trade secrets, accusing the Internet giant of raiding all but one of Nuance's research and development engineers. Nuance said 13 engineers from its Menlo Park and Montreal offices were 75 percent finished with a project that would allow people to search the Internet by speaking their queries into a telephone, rather than typing them on a computer keyboard. Nuance planned to sell the technology to companies like Yahoo."
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Yahoo Accused Of Raiding Workers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02, 2005 @10:45AM (#13698283)
    When the 13 engineers went to Yahoo, Nuance was being acquired by Scansoft. That acquisition has since closed and Nuance is now part of Scansoft. Scansoft is infamous for buying out its competitors, "laying off" all the acquired employees, and "retiring" the acquired products. They've done it over and over again.

    For example: Last year Scansoft bought a company called Rhetorical. Rhetorical sold a speech synthesizer that was better and cost less than Scansoft's. Just one year later Rhetorical is a dead product. Scansoft has fired all but one Rhetorical employee and they are pushing Rhetorical customers to buy the less-capable Scansoft RealSpeak speech synthesizer for a higher price.

    Thanks to this notorious reputation, the Nuance engineers knew they had at most one year of employment left after Scansoft takes over. Scansoft would probably pay them to finish the project - but they almost certainly would then get canned.

    Would you stay in these circumstances? I wouldn't.

    PS: Yahoo isn't the only one hiring speech research engineers left and right. Google has hired dozens of speech engineers from Nuance, Scansoft, and other companies in the last year. Remember the guy in China Google hired that Microsoft got all pissy and sued Google about? Guess what he and many of his Chinese co-workers were hired to do at Microsoft originally: Speech research.

  • by thallgren ( 122316 ) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @11:49AM (#13698551)
    If they had said "co-owners" I would have understand why they are upset, but the wording "worker" make the whole thing sound like, "we can get them in droves, so don't pay them too much".

    Regards, Tommy
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02, 2005 @12:33PM (#13698784)
    I was a long-term intern at another company when they got bought by ScanSoft and ScanSoft tried to screw me over too. Interns don't get any benefits, but I had negotiated with the company that was being bought to get paid holidays (not vacation, just holidays). ScanSoft tried to take that away. Unfortunately for ScanSoft, they didn't make me sign a new contract when they took over, so I just stomped my feet a little and they gave in. It couldn't have amounted to more than a couple hundred dollars overall, so I'm not sure why they chose to be difficult. The corporate culture at ScanSoft is very dreary. Not to mention the fact that they've bought what amounts to about ten different speech technology companies over the past 5 years, so the whole place is a technology and corporate culture integration nightmare.

    I applaud those Nuance engineers for getting out. Yahoo is probably a much more exciting place to work, because Nuance has been a sinking ship, financial speaking, for quite some time.

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