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Court rejects Google call to end 'Android not open' suit

Skyhook gathers evidence on Google 'interference'

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A Massachusetts court has denied Google's efforts to dismiss a hot-button lawsuit that accuses the company of unfairly using its Android operating system to strong-arm mobile handset makers into using Google location services rather than those of rival Skyhook.

Earlier this week, Judge Judith Fabricant of the Massachusetts Superior court rejected a Google motion for summary judgment in the case, brought by Skyhook last year. Mountain View had sought to end the case before Skyhook was allowed to obtain additional evidence to support its claims.

"Skyhook's theory ... appears to be that Google used its contractual power not to protect its legitimate business interests but to injure Skyhook and thereby avoid competition," the judge said. "Whether Skyhook will be able to elicit evidence to support that theory remains to be seen, but, at least at this stage, the Court cannot conclude that the theory lacks viability."

Skyhook has long offered services for pinpointing the location of mobile devices using nearby Wi-Fi networks and cell towers. Its location services were included with the original iPhone, though Apple has since moved to its own services. Google offers similar services with Android.

In September, Skyhook filed two complaints against Google, one in US District Court in Massachusetts claiming patent infringement, and a second in Massachusetts state court alleging unfair and intentional interference with its contractual and business relations with handset manufacturers. The state suit accuses Google of using Android and various proprietary Google mobile applications, including Google Maps, to force manufacturers into using Google's location services rather than Skyhook's.

According to that suit, Google forced multiple 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 Motorola didn't drop Skyhook from its phones, Google would remove official Android support from the devices. This would mean the devices could not use proprietary Google apps or the Android name. The suit says that whereas Google paints Android as open source, Google still maintains exclusive oversight of the OS. ®

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