Google Faces 6 Alleged Patent Infringement Lawsuits in the US

by: Christine TorralbaDecember 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]

  • David Rowswell

    I am not a legal expert, and I don’t know what the answer is regarding a system that is both fair and does not prevent innovation, but the existing patent system is obviously not working.

    As a consumer I am sick of reading about companies like Apple, Microsoft, IPCom and now BT that have patents on all kinds of functions with very broad descriptions. These items that they are patenting represent requirements that pretty much every company that wants to create a product/solution will violate existing patents. From the outside it looks like a nightmare.

    From what I have read it appears even common things that everything uses like “Cut and Paste” are patented.

    If only one company was allowed to build a smartphone with a touch screen interface, because they held the patent for touch screen user interface, the world would suffer greatly. It seems like companies are trying to patent every function that they put in a piece of software.

    Apple sued Samsung because of the look and shape of Samsung’s tablet. How can Apple claim ownership of a shape? They own a rectangle with rounded corners? Go into any TV shop. Stand back and look at the wall of TVs. They look near identical.

    I would love to hear if anyone has an idea on a better system that protects inventions and related investment, does not prevent innovation, and stops companies from patenting “core” items.

    • AppleFUD

      Well, since software patents were rarely ever given pre 1990 it seems that a “fair” system would give the same option to current businesses today as those in the pre-1990’s–to build their company without threat of constant attack via software patents–copyright is enough for software.

      Another idea, especially in tech is allow a patent for one/two year–there is little doubt that apple recouped their R&D for the iphone & ipad within a year of release. It seems that in tech any decent innovation will recoup costs rather quickly.

      Another idea would be for the government to mandate that companies that do get patents on tech that are necessary for others to compete (e.g. multi-touch for smartphones — no apple didn’t invent it) must license those patents–similar to FRAND for certain tech but make it much broader so companies can’t use patents as banning tool but rather tools that help them make money to pay for R&D.

      Finally, all governments should ban patent trolls–companies that do not make products that use the patents they have and only use those patents to sue other companies that actually make products.

      Patents are a government contract of sorts and therefore the government needs to regulate them. The problem is, the governments don’t care because they just want the cash for the patent fees then the companies can fight it out in court = profit for the government & attorneys while consumers eat the costs.

      On patent designs, the patent design should be awarded for an actual device, not a sketch. That would solve a lot of issues. Furthermore, immediately invalidate any design patent that does not list prior art that the company/person knew about–e.g. apple knew about the Knight-Ridder tablet yet did not list it as prior art, thus imo the design patent should be immediately voided. Furthermore, there should be hefty fines for companies that sue over such patents and ultimately lose by having the design patent invalidated.

      The problem resides with the governments allowing vague patents of all types and don’t require an actual product. They simply need to be more stringent as they were many years ago–there must be a fully working device demonstrating the IP and the IP cannot just be an idea. Seriously, “one click checkout” is an idea. The technology that makes it work is nothing more than standard programming languages.

      The problem really does reside with the governments and their stupidity IMO. No doubt largely due to wealthy companies spending tons lobbying government officials.

  • Dross

    If Android wasn’t such a rip-off OS they wouldn’t be having nearly as many patent issues.

    • AppleFUD

      Show me an OS that isn’t a “rip-off.” They are all based on previous work and languages that none of these companies developed. You need to go way back to At&T and IBM.

      Let’s see. . .
      iOS/OSX = FreeBSD = Unix with GUI via Douglas Engelbart => Xerox PARC
      Linux = Unix based etc. . .
      And like MS hasn’t ripped-off nearly everyone they could?

      Good thing software patents weren’t in full swing when MS & apple got started–they wouldn’t have been able to do anything!

      So, what was your point?

  • yep thats true android is really awesome os with mind blowing apps

    • iLove2argue

      not awesome OS. apps? yeah a tons of apps that’s the only part were good. not so good probably coz a lot of malware. malwaredroids

  • Kyle Gustafson

    As a scientist, I depend on the research that previous scientists have done. Although most have already passed away, I am sure they would not be upset if they discovered that I was expanding their ideas and testing their hypotheses. This is commonly called “standing on the shoulder’s of giants.”

    Here is a great example of what happens when greed and secrecy become a component in development. I am very disappointed in the current state of the economy and patent system. I guarantee these lawyers are making a substantial amount of money, along with the court systems. This money would be much better spent by either making their products cheaper or by investing in more programmers.

    It is even more disappointing because the code is not stolen. If the code was stolen from a different company, I could understand why they would be upset. This is just allowing for monopolies and slowing our technological advances.

    All we need to do is acknowledge that other companies have good ideas and that others are trying to replicate or improve on those ideas. Is that a bad thing? Some might think so. I do not. Sell your product, improve, repeat.

    • Michael Seton

      Im with you on this its the same thing for apple vs samsung its all about monopolies, why can’t they start working together to improve technology, who knows how much money is spent in these greedy fights, and what the money could have done to help find cures for cancer etc etc etc…..

      if we cant improve on something that exists then how are we supposed to exceed it and become more efficient,

      just think about computers for a minute, were would we be now if companies didnt improve on the hardware, no one would have pc’s because they’d be to expensive and too large to fit in a house, or you’d need a whole office block or more to be able to just calculate, what a joke, improvements make the world a better place….

    • Jim

      I agree. I mean, what they are not asking is what is best for the user. If I can have a highly-technofied, ubiquitous experience for getting from place to place by using Maps, I am happy. If Maps on my phone can’t do certain things because one company is whining that “we thought of that first” and now Maps deactivates that functionality, then I as the user suffer. But, who wins? See, that is the question. You know the answer? Simple: The attorneys. These are the people who stir up conflict in our society in order to profit from it. My brother is an attorney and I myself have been to law school, so I know what I am talking about and I am not just trashing on lawyers.

      MY OPINION: Technology of the future does not work with the the current US patent/trademark system. The future of technology will require much more collaboration, not just greedy competition. This will be a bumpy ride for a while, but…

      I predict that Google will buy an offshore island/country and make that the Google nation and make their own laws so then they “only” have to deal with international law. They sure would have lots more freedom to innovate. It sounds funny, but it makes sense. Watch and see. Think Google will become it’s own nation?

  • Demetris Drakos

    This was just waiting to happen… I mean, this is the company that tried to patent the hyperlink, how long would it have taken them to try and take a bite out of Google’s profits?
    This will end up in flames as with their previous lawsuits; as usual, overtly broad patents enable the trolls to try and stifle innovation they can’t perform themselves…