British Telecom is suing Google over six alleged infringements that affect its services in a plethora of areas, including Android Market, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Music, Google Places, Google Offers, Google Plus and location-based advertising.
According to Florian Mueller’s news blog Foss Patents, the lawsuit was reportedly filed in the U.S. district court for Delaware.
BT is seeking damages and an injunction, and its complaint indicates Google refuses to pay. The second sentence of paragraph 21 in the action states: “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.”
Google contacted the Wall Street Journal Dec. 19 and issued a statement regarding the recent patent infringement allegations.
“We believe these claims are groundless and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them,” said Google to WSJ.
The patent infringement actions are occurring as Google attempts to close its acquisition of Motorola Mobility.
“Whether BT already has a cross-license deal in place with MMI or simply doesn’t believe MMI has any patents with which Google can effectively strike back, it’s clear that BT decided to assert its rights at any rate,” Mueller explained in his blog.
The technology giant is also facing patent infringement actions across the board from Apple, Oracle, Microsoft and eBay. BT is the fifth-largest publicly traded company-in the $10 billion and up market capitalization range-to issue infringement litigation against Google and Android.
Google, due to royalty payment obligations, could change its Android licensing model and pass royalties to device makers as many major patent holders continue to force the company into a tight corner with their asserted rights
Mueller outlined the six patents-in-suit and the related infringement allegations in his blog:
- U.S. Patent No. 6,151,309 on a “service provision system for communications networks” 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.”
- U.S. Patent No. 6,169,515 on a “navigation information system” 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”.
- U.S. Patent No. 6,397,040 on a “telecommunications apparatus and method” 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.
- U.S. Patent No. 6,578,079 on a “communications node for providing network based information service” 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.
- U.S. Patent No. 6,650,284 on an “information system” 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.”