Mea Culpa: Microsoft Admits JuKu Code Copied From Competitor

Microsoft has suspended access to the Juku site "indefinitely" and issued an apology to Plurk, the Canadian startup that developed the microblogging Web site from which the code was pilfered.

Microsoft said a Chinese vendor contracted to do the Juku development work "has now acknowledged that a portion of the code they provided was indeed copied," Microsoft said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. Microsoft did not identify the contract developer.

"This was in clear violation of the vendor's contract with the MSN China joint venture, and equally inconsistent with Microsoft's policies respecting intellectual property," Microsoft said.

Early Monday Plurk posted a blog claiming that Juku's design and user interface "is by and large an EXACT copy of Plurk's innovative left-right timeline scrolling navigation system," and that some 80 percent of the Juku code "appears to be stolen directly from Plurk."

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The company said it was first tipped off about the similarities by "high-profile bloggers and Taiwanese users of our community."

"Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but blatant theft of code, design, and UI elements is just not cool, especially when the infringing party is the biggest software company in the world," Plurk said.

Microsoft issued a statement early Tuesday saying it was suspending access to Juku and investigating the plagiarism claims. Juku, which helps users find friends through microblogging and online games, was launched last month.

In the latest statement Microsoft said its practice is to include "strong language" in third-party development contracts that requires contractors not infringe the intellectual property of others.

"We are obviously very disappointed, but we assume responsibility for this situation," the statement said. "We apologize to Plurk and we will be reaching out to them directly to explain what happened and the steps we have taken to resolve the situation."

"In the wake of this incident, Microsoft and our MSN China joint venture will be taking a look at our practices around applications code provided by third-party vendors."