British Telecom has filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the Android operating system infringes of six of its patents. The suit attacks Google on a number of fronts, including Google Maps, Google+ and Google Music.
The gist of the six patents, according to patent blogger Florian Mueller:
The first covers WiFi or network connectivity for downloads in products such as Google Music.
The second covers the provision of up-to-date data over a mobile connection in systems such as Google Maps.
The third covers services generated by user preferences in products such as Google Maps and Google Places.
The fourth deals with a data service that stores customer data.
The fifth involves mapping, particularly of transportation systems.
The sixth deals with providing location-based information in services such as Google Maps and Google Maps Navigation.
Google has indicated it will fight the suit rather than settle, saying the claims are groundless.
BT did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
While the technology in question has been used by Google for years, it may have taken the experts at BT some time to prepare their claim.
“The IP folks — both technical and legal — are finally getting their arms around the scope and breadth of the technology that we’ve all been enjoying the past decade,” Christopher M. Collins of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian told LinuxInsider.
The delay may have been due in part to reluctance to be the first to strike against Google, Collins noted, but there are now plenty of other players taking swipes at the search giant. The real question is whether the weight of these multiple suits will have a cumulative effect on Google’s strategy.
“Without opining on the merits of the patents or claims,” Collins continued, “you have to wonder if Google would look at the BT suit strategically and say, ‘we should settle this one early so as to bring our money and legal talent to bear on the other competitors and other lawsuits?'”
Still, each case has its unique features.
“Google may well decide that it needs to fight each suit until final victory is achieved through the exhaustion of every last court and patent re-examination proceeding,” said Collins. “I think Google would lean towards fighting, given the importance of its patent portfolio, the Motorola deal, and its current market and cash position.”
Patents May Be Too Broad
The long list of technologies included in the BT suit may bog it down.
“BT’s patents against Google are very broad and cover almost everything Google does, including the Android operating system, Android market, Google Music, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Places, Offers, Google+, and location-based advertising,” Azita Arvani, principal of the Arvani Group, told LinuxInsider. “It is doubtful that all of these alleged infringements will be found valid.”
Some of the specific claims may have greater merit.
“It looks like BT has some location-based patents that date back quite a few years and might put another patent burden on Android,” said Arvani.
Google Has Motorola for Cover
Google may have bought itself some protection with the wide range of patents it stands to acquire upon completion of its purchase of Motorola Mobility.
“Without seeing the patents, it’s impossible to know if these are valid claims, but Google did purchase the Motorola Mobility patents for $12.5 billion to help protect itself,” Peter S. Vogel, partner, Gardere Wynne Sewell, told LinuxInsider
“Given the myriad of uses of Google’s Android software, it is likely we will continue to see patent infringement claims by other competitors,” he said. “Yet Google has its larger portfolio of patents to help defend, and countersue for its protection.”