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Google sued by ex-iPhone location outfit

Motorola threatened with Android removal, claims Skyhook

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Google has been sued by Skyhook Wireless, the Boston-based outfit that offers a service for pinpointing a mobile device's location via nearby Wi-Fi signals.

On Wednesday, Skyhook filed two complaints against Google, one in US District Court claiming patent infringement. The other was filed in Massachusetts state court alleging unfair and intentional interference with its contractual and business relations with handset manufacturers such as Motorola.

The Massachusetts suit accuses Google of using its Android mobile operating system and various mobile applications, such as Google Maps, to force manufacturers into using its location technology rather than Skyhook's. According to the suit, Google forced handset makers "to terminate contractual obligations with Skyhook [and] to sacrifice superior end user experience with Skyhook by threatening directly or indirectly to deny timely and equal access to evolving versions of the Android operating system and other Google mobile applications."

The suit specifically claims that Andy Rubin, who oversees Google's Android project, told Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha that if the manufacturer didn't drop Skyhook from its phones, Google would remove official Android support from the devices. Because of this, the suit says, Google cost Skyhook millions of dollars in Motorola royalties. The suit makes a point of saying that although Google bills Android as open source, Google still maintains exclusive oversight of the platform, providing access to Android Marketplace only if devices met certain software requirements.

In total, the suit claims, Skyhook has lost "in excess of tens of millions of dollars" due to Google's actions. Claiming violation of Massachusetts laws against unfair and deceptive trade practices, the suit seeks an injunction against Google's location service as well as damages.

The separate federal suit claims that Google's location service violates four of Skyhook's patents. It too seeks an injunction and damages.

Skyhook was used in the original iPhone but Apple has since switched to its own service. ®

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