BT Goes After Google for a Piece of the Patent Pie

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BT is the latest entity to get in on the action when it comes to alleging patent infringement by Google. The British telecom, ISP, and IT services company charges that Google's search, Android mobile operating system, and other services violate six patents BT holds.

The lawsuit—filed in the United States District Court in Delaware—claims that BT patents are infringed by the Android mobile OS, Google Maps, Gmail, the Google+ social network, AdWords, and even the main Google search engine. The alleged infringement seems broad--like a carpet bombing as opposed to a precision attack.

BT is piling on to the Android patent heap with fresh claims of infringement.
BT is not a mobile technology company per se, but it claims to have invested in mobile technologies and related services, and it believes it has a case against Google. BT maintains a portfolio of around 5600 patents when you combine both pending and awarded ones. The company is seeking unspecified damages from Google, and an injunction barring Google from continued use of its innovations.

Florian Mueller, a tech patent and intellectual property analyst, points out in a blog post that some of the wording of the patent complaint suggests that BT had been in talks with Google for some sort of licensing, but that Google refused to cooperate and those negotiations apparently broke down.

In fact, BT seems a tad vindictive and spiteful. Mueller says, “BT seeks damages--even triple damages for willful and deliberate infringement--as well as an injunction.”

On the one hand, the approach of "Where there’s smoke, there’s fire," seems to apply. If one company goes after Google or Android for patent infringement, you might write it off as sour grapes. When major corporation after major corporation charges Google with patent infringement, it seems increasingly likely that there is some patent infringement somewhere.

On the other hand, frivolous patent litigation has become a standard operating procedure for tech businesses. So, you could almost as easily assume that none of the patent suits has merit, and this is all just part of a competitive business strategy to discredit Google and Android, and to force vendors and consumers to think twice about embracing any of its services or gadgets.

Patent litigation is generally a long, protracted process that is costly for both sides. Regardless of whether the patent allegations have technical merit or are just a competitive tactic, you can bet that the suing party has a calculated strategy in mind that justifies the expense.

But, there is so much overlap, and so much nonsense, in tech patents that it is becoming more and more complex to even determine if a patent is truly valid. In the end, a calculated business risk doesn’t necessarily mean that the case has merit, and it is up to the legal system to determine if Google is guilty of patent infringement or just the victim of patent trolling--or somewhere in between.

A Google spokesperson responded to a request for comment to say, "We believe these claims are groundless and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them."

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