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BT's gift to Google: A patent war over ads and Android

Music, Maps, Adwords and mobile OS land Google in court

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It's open season now. BT is the latest company to sue Google, alleging patent infringement, but this latest barrage extends beyond Google's Android software - it touches to other Google services too. These include maps, music, social networking and its advertising services, including Adwords, claims BT.

Although only the six are mentioned - which is not untypical for an opening salvo - it appears BT has chosen the carefully to encompass a broad range of Google services and business areas as possible. Google+ and Offers even merit a mention.

BT has filed the suit in a Delaware court and alleges that six patents are violated. These are: USPTO 6,151,309 (the 'Busuoic' patent); 6,169,515 ('Mannings'); 6,397,040 ('Titmuss 1'); 6,578,079 ('Gittins'); 6,650,284 ('Mannings 2'); and 6,826,598 ('Titmuss 2').

The IP protected by these six, says BT, can be used to stream music over low-bandwidth connections, provide route guidance and produce location-based shortlists. The telco claims this technology is used by Google Maps and Adwords. Titmuss 1 describes location-based advertising services, directions and other services that are alleged used by Android market and Google Books.

Barely any area of Google's business is untouched by the six - except possibly Google's Space Elevator.

A neutral may feel that this is a confrontation in which both sides, given past form, deserve to lose.

In 2000, BT filed lawsuits against US ISPs claiming they violated an old patent on hyperlinks. It gave up in 2002 after a judge ruled that the 1976 Hidden Page patent didn't cover the infringement claim.

On the eve of its 2004 IPO Google had to pay Yahoo! a substantial settlement for vital IP relating to its core money-making asset: context-based keywords. With Android, Google rushed to market without sweeping for patent mines by performing due diligence checks, and then refused to indemnify its partners. This has given Google, and its partners, a pile of avoidable headaches and legal costs. And Google lobbies hard to weaken IP protection in overseas countries, threatening the local tax base, where it makes little fiscal contribution of its own.

A bully and a scofflaw? A cynic might be tempted to conclude that the two deserve each other. ®

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