Monday 21 October 2019

BT joins patent attack on Google Android

Android has been accused of unlawful copying in many areas
Android has been accused of unlawful copying in many areas

Christopher Williams

BRITISH telecoms giant BT has joined the ranks of major corporations claiming billions of dollars from Google for alleged patent infringements in the Android smartphone operating system.

Papers filed in the United States detail claims relating to six BT patents, piling further court pressure on Google, which also faces patent infringement allegations from Oracle.

Android manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC also face a slew of lawsuits from major players including Apple and Microsoft.

In a broad complaint, BT claims that Google Maps, Google Music, Google Search, Android Market, location-based advertising and the Google+ social network all infringe its intellectual property.

It is seeking damages likely to run into billions of dollars, which it claims should be trebled for some of the allegations because of wilful and deliberate infringement. It also wants an injunction against further infringements, which could lead to Android devices being banned from sale.

“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 court papers say.

Google said BT’s claims are “without merit” and that it would “defend vigorously against them”.

The search giant’s $12.5bn buyout of Motorola Mobility, currently under consideration by competition authorities, was widely seen as a move top defend Android against patent infringement claims. Google will acquire a portfolio of more than 17,000 mobile patents in the deal.

BT’s action was first reported by Florian Mueller, a German campaigner against software patents who has chronicled the smartphone industry’s increasingly intense legal battles on his blog in recent years.

“BT brings this action at a time when Google is trying to close its acquisition of Motorola Mobility,” he said.

“Whether BT already has a cross-license deal in place with [Motorola Mobility] or simply doesn't believe [Motorola Mobility] has any patents with which Google can effectively strike back, it's clear that BT decided to assert its rights at any rate.”

Mr Mueller speculated that BT decided to sue Google rather than Android manufacturers such as Samsung, which has been targeted by Apple and Microsoft, because it “probably wants to continue to be able to do business with all mobile device makers”.

The action marks a renewed attempt by BT to capitalise on its 10,000-strong patent portfolio, developed by its research division at Adastral Park near Ipswich.

“The patents in question relate to technologies which underpin location-based services, navigation and guidance information and personalised access to services and content," a spokesman for the firm said.

“BT's constant investment in innovation has seen it develop a large portfolio of patents which are valuable corporate assets.”

Google has often complained that the patent system stifles innovation. Its critics, including Steve Jobs before his death earlier this year, charge that Android is based on unlawfully copied technology.

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