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Google Losing Maps Patent Fight Against Microsoft

Munich court might rule against Google, forcing it to shut down its maps service in Germany

By Valentin Schmid
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 8, 2013 Last Updated: March 10, 2013
Related articles: Business » Companies
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People work on laptops before the start of a news conference about Google Maps June 2012 in San Francisco, California. A March 7 court hearing in Munich Germany indicated that judges think the service is infringing a 1995 Microsoft patent and might have to be shut down in Germany after a final decision is made in May. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

People work on laptops before the start of a news conference about Google Maps June 2012 in San Francisco, California. A March 7 court hearing in Munich Germany indicated that judges think the service is infringing a 1995 Microsoft patent and might have to be shut down in Germany after a final decision is made in May. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Microsoft is likely to win a patent dispute and could force Google to shut down its maps service in Germany. Microsoft claims that Google Maps violates a patent first filed in 1995 and observers say the court tilts in Microsoft’s favor.

“Google has not been able so far to convince the court that the patent is highly probable to be invalidated … Its pre-trial arguments for a narrower interpretation of the patent did not convince the court either,” Florian Müller of FOSS Patents who attended the March 7 hearing in Munich, Germany writes in his blog. The final decision of the court is expected in May this year. 

U.S. Patent No. 6,240,360 on a “computer system for identifying local resources and method therefore,” was first filed in the U.K. in 1995 and describes the process on how to combine search engine results with map data. For the world in 2013 this process is so mundane and trivial that it became second nature for users of Google Maps and other applications. 

In 1995, however, it was a revolutionary concept and Microsoft has the title to it. “This is a case of competing companies with competing products,” Judge Matthias Zigann of the Munich I Regional Court told DPA, referring to Microsoft Bing maps. 

This drawing was included in the 1995 filing for U.S. Patent No. 6,240,360 and shows how the technology might be used for map services (European Patent Office)

This drawing was included in the 1995 filing for U.S. Patent No. 6,240,360 and shows how the technology might be used for map services (European Patent Office)

Florian Müller, who is a consultant specialized in mobile patent disputes does not think Google can win this one. “Microsoft is seeking, and now very likely to obtain, a German patent injunction against the Google Maps service, the Google Maps Android client app, and web browsers providing access to Google Maps,” he writes in his blog. 

If that is the case, Google would have to stop offering its Google Maps service in Germany. The Google counsel said that millions of private users as well as public institutions who use the service could be put at a disadvantage and that the reputational damage would be “irreparable,” according to DPA. A standard licensing agreement could be a way to avert this scenario and Microsoft is willing to talk about it. 

“We remain confident that the Court will find that Motorola and Google have infringed our intellectual property. We continue to hope for a licensing agreement that will resolve all the current disputes between the companies,”  a Microsoft spokesperson said in an emailed statement.  

Google subsidiary Motorola, however, has so far refused to license any of Microsoft’s patents, which is why it is currently not offering any Android devices in Germany at all. Other Android device makers such as Samsung, HTC and LG already have license agreements with Microsoft for different patents.

Because of the intense rivalry between Google and Microsoft, Florian Müller suspects that Google has barred Motorola from entering into a license agreement with Microsoft.  

What this means for the United States is unclear. The German lawsuits were originally started by Motorola, which was then countersued by Microsoft Florian Müller reports. In the United States no court information regarding patent No. 6,240,360 is publicly available and Microsoft as well as Google declined to comment on the matter regarding the U.S.  A Google spokesman said in an emailed statement with regards to the German case: “We are confident in our position and look forward to defending it in court.”

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