Google Faces 6 Alleged Patent Infringement Lawsuits in the US

December 19, 2011
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Following our post on the infringement case Apple filed against other manufacturers, we just got word that Google is in the same scenario. Moreover, Google has been sued for the fifth time by a large publicly traded company against patent infringements on the Android. The newest member of the entourage is British Telecommunications plc (BT); joining on the roster of other companies such as Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and eBay.

 

The lawsuit was filed by BT with the US District Court for the District of Delaware stating:

“BT seeks damages — even triple damages for willful and deliberate infringement — as well as an injunction. The complaint suggests that Google refused to pay. The second sentence of paragraph 21 states that “BT brings this action to recover the just compensation it is owed and to prevent Google from continuing to benefit from BT’s inventions without authorization”.

The lawsuit was filed last Thursday, in time for Google’s proximity to closing an acquisition of Motorola Mobility. It’s still unclear if BT already has placed a cross-license deal with MMI or they believe Google holds any patents they can use to strike back against such lawsuit. But one thing’s for sure, BT has taken action to assert its rights.

Considering Google is already submerged in deep water with its patent infringement cases, royalty obligations just might force the company to alter its Android licensing model.

Here are the patents-in-suit along with the accused technologies Google is facing:

According to BT’s complaint, “embodiments of the invention include providing services by means of a combination of communications networks in spite of differing capabilities on the bandwidth that is available in certain mobile networks”, with Google Music and Android offering “representative examples of Google’s infringement” of this patent. The complaint states that “Google Music maintains data relating to whether a particular music service is available or unavailable to its user based on whether is located in, and connected to, a WiFi hotspot or a cellular data network”. It also says that certain file download and upload services related to Android are available based on whether a user has a WiFi or cellular connection. “For example, a Google Android user can choose his or her settings to allow downloading of a file in Browser and Android Market only whe the user is located in a WiFi hotspot and his or her device is connected to that hotspot.”

This patent covers “a navigation system which includes a fixed part and at least one mobile part to provide guidance information to a user”. Simply put, whatever information is available on the mobile device can be complemented or enhanced with “current information” (such as route and traffic information) that is transferred over a mobile connection.

BT complains that “Google Maps determines the location of the user in relation to one or more discrete predetermined map overlay areas” and then “transmits guidance information pertaining to public transportation stops, tourist attractions and local facilities present in an overlay area to all users within that overlay area”, and does the same for “traffic and route guidance”.

According to the complaint, this patent covers the generation and transmission of “shortlists of sources of information dependent upon the location of a user”, which lists “may relate to sources of information respecitng services, facilities, friends and transportation and may be generated in accordance with user preferences”.

That sounds broad, and accordingly, infringement allegations are brought against Google Maps, Google Search, Google Places, Google’s location-based advertising, Google Offers, and the Google+ social network.

According to BT, this patent covers “a network-based information service in a communications network by storing customer identities, respective customer-associated lists of identifies of information itemts for which the respective associated customer has access rights, and identifies of item-associated information sources which store the respective items”. This is, essentially, a digital rights management patent.

The accused technologies include the Android Market app store, Google Books and Google Music. For example, the complaint states that “Google’s Android Market utilizes user identities in Google’s servers, maintains a list of items (e.g., Android apps, movies and books) that each user can access, and, for each such item, provides the identity of the source of the item’s contents”. Following a login or the transmission of an authentication token, Google “offers the lsit of items that the user is entitled to access”, and retrieves any such items at the user’s request.

This one is derived from the ‘515 (“navigation information system”) patent described further above and adds the particular feature of “providing information to a mobile part in which the route may be affected by a physical characteristic of the vehicle with which the mobile part is associated”.

The complaint argues that Google Maps proposes different routes based on “the user’s mode of transportation (e.g., bicycle or car)”, which is correct.

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,826,598 on a “storage and retrieval of location based information in a distributed network of data storage devices”

BT claims that this patent “allows for rapid storage and retrieval of location-specific information stored across the distributed network where such information is accessible simultaneously from a pluarlity of remote user terminals”. BT sees an infringement in Google Maps and Google Maps Navigation providing different levels of specificity at different zoom levels, making some information available at multiple zoom levels and other information only at a particular level. BT also complains that “the locality of interest for location-based information source is determined as a function of a mobile user’s speed of travel” or “direction of travel”.

Since Android is already dealing with so many intellectual problems, BT has decided to sue Google directly. After all, they sure do want to continue doing business with their contacts in the industry of mobile device makers.

 

What do you think will happen to Google and Android? Let us know by posting in the comments below.

 

[Source: FOSS Patents]

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