Tide Turning Against Google in Android Patent Wars

Apple has won a major patent victory over HTC and Android as the U.S. FTC affirmed the July patent ruling in Apple’s favor. Meanwhile, UK telecommunications company BT has opened another patent case that targets a wide array of Google services and Microsoft has won an android patent case against Motorola.

Apple’s Victory Over HTC

While Apple officially received its verdict back in July, it’s largely been anticipated that the FTC evlaution wouldn’t hold up the verdict. However, the December 20th, 2011 ruling affirmed the previous verdict and set specific consequences.

The consequences in this case involve a “limited import exclusion” that will come into effect on April 19th, 2012. In practical terms, it means that HTC won’t be able to continue importing Android phones after that date until the company has either appealed the ruling, settled with Apple, or reached a licensing agreement. There are no restrictions on HTC selling phones that are already inside the United States.

This ruling specifically covered data-detection technology, but it’s just one of two cases Apple raised against HTC. Apple is also pursuing cases against both Samsung and Motorola (which is set to be a Google company).

“The battle between Apple and Android is going to continue,” said Peter Toren, patent lawyer who has been evaluating the case, in an interview with the Washington Post. “I’m not sure this decision, the way it is, is enough to push the parties to settlement. Apple doesn’t have the leverage of a total exclusionary order.”

BT’s Patents and Targeted Technology

While BT has a claim on 5,600 patents and patent applications, only six of those patents are coming into play for these allegations. Wired.com reports that the primary patent involved in this case is for a “Service provision system for communications networks” that BT was awarded in the 90s.

The patents are broad enough that, according to a BBC report, the technologies being targeted would be those that “relate to location-based services, navigation and guidance information and personalised access to services and content.”

Those categories would include Android features such as being able to set different behaviors for the phone when you’re accessing 3G as opposed to WiFi; being able to see different details at different levels of zoom on Google Maps; pulling the user’s current location to augment other services; and a lot more. According to a BT spokesperson, several additional Google properties – including Google Books, Google+, Google Docs, Google Offers, and Google Music – infringe on the patents.

BT is seeking an undisclosed amount as well as an injunction against the Android system. BT will not be the first to try just that; other companies who have sued Android over alleged patent infringement include Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, eBay, and Gemalto.

A BT spokesperson stated, “This is about protecting BT’s investment in its intellectual property rights and innovation. It is a well-considered claim and we believe there is a strong case of infringement.”

A spokesperson for Google disagrees, stating, “We believe these claims are without merit, and we will defend vigorously against them.” Google has said previously that they feel Android is the target of a “hostile, organized campaign” that centers around patents.

Certainly, BT isn’t in the strongest position. Having a 20-year-old patent that applies to technology that didn’t exist then and that BT has had no part in creating since isn’t exactly a strong position. Further, BT has a history of outlandish claims. Just over a decade ago, the company claimed they owned the hyperlink.

Microsoft Wins Motorola Case

Nonetheless, this week the dial seems to be swinging against Google. Just today, V3.co.uk reported that “Microsoft has won a courtroom victory after the US International Trade Commission (ITC) found Motorola in violation of Microsoft patents concerning mobile scheduling and meeting tools.”

Intellectual property expert, Florian Mueller told V3 that these disputes will continue for a long time, “The ones who can actually sit back and relax are those who have concluded license deals with Microsoft (or other patent holders) and don’t have to worry about possible or actual import bans, possible or impossible workarounds, or further escalation.”

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