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Google whips out pocket cannon, fires VoIP patent sueball at BT

Telco eats first ever direct volley from search giant

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Google is suing BT in the US and the UK over allegations Blighty's national telco infringed four patents.

The search giant typically leaves it to its Android phone-making pals, or its Motorola Mobility division, to drag rivals (read: Apple) into court over patents. But today, for the first time ever, it's seeking direct revenge - and suing BT after the telco took Google to court in 2011.

The four protected designs Google alleges BT ripped off are: US5581703, US5701465, US6807166 and US7460558. These, in general terms, describe technology to transfer files to a remote computer; a VoIP gateway between a phone and the internet; and prioritising data over a multi-tier network.

Of the four Google patents cited, three were formerly IBM's and one was Fujitsu's. The advertising titan wants the usual remedies of damages, lawyers' fees and promises to never be naughty again from BT.

Google has always claimed that it is not interested in the legal battles over phone designs that have been running for the last few years; its executive chairman Eric Schmidt trash-talked Apple for being so itchy on the trigger.

Schmidt previously said that "the patent wars are death" and that they harm startups that don't have the intellectual property arsenal of the big boys - while pretending that its subsidiary Motorola Mobility's continued lawsuits against Apple, and its loan of patents to HTC to also sue the iPhone maker, is not really getting involved.

Google may be happy to buy up patents for its own war chest and lend its designs to partners so they can sue others, but when luckless BT does the same it's a different story.

"We have always seen litigation as a last resort, and we work hard to avoid lawsuits," a spokesperson for Google said in an emailed statement. "But BT has brought several meritless patent claims against Google and our customers - and they've also been arming patent trolls. When faced with these kind of actions, we will defend ourselves."

The Chocolate Factory is presumably talking about the lawsuit filed by Delaware firm Steelhead Licensing, which acquired a patent from BT to take a long list of firms including Apple, LG, HTC and Motorola to task for alleged infringement of said patent. Google is also referring to BT's case against the internet giant, also pending in Delaware, which claims that Android, Gmail, Google Maps and other Mountain View products are infringing on BT's mobile patents.

A BT spokesperson told The Reg that the firm "does not comment on impending litigation". ®

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