The world of patent litigation seems less and less connected to the real world as the rate of change and development outpaces the rate at which companies can patent new technologies, or even, as BT shows, sort through their existing ones. The amount of infringement lawsuits in play right now is mind-boggling, and while some have some common-sense merit, others simply don’t have a veneer of legitimacy. BT’s new lawsuit against Google, alas, seems to fall into the latter category.
The games these company play as far as picking and choosing who, how, and where they sue are beyond understanding by onlookers. It seems likely that the normal method of extortion via patent has failed, so BT has gone all-out, and is asking for damages, likely quite a sum, as they allege years of willful infringement. That kind of thing adds up, and the costs will continue to mount as the trial, guaranteed to be long and strange, goes on.
FOSS Patents has links to and summaries of the patents in question, which I won’t duplicate here. The trouble seems to be usual one with patent trolling, which is that the patents cover such elementary aspects of technologies today that it’s hard to imagine a device or service that does not infringe.
For instance, two of the patents more or less cover the storage and processing of mapping data centrally, and pushing out only, say, route and traffic data to a mobile device. It’s hard to believe that such a thing could be patented in the first place, as it is the natural method for any internet-enabled device to show a map. Hindsight does leave us with the impression that such things are natural or inevitable, when certainly not all are, but these patents don’t strike one as inventive.
Says BT: “It is a well-considered claim and we believe there is a strong case of infringement.” Says Google: “We believe these claims are without merit, and we will defend vigorously against them.”
Right now there isn’t much to add; the litigation will probably go on for some time as Google files countersuits and attempts to invalidate the BT patents or prove in some other way that Google is not liable for damages. We won’t bore you with the weekly victories and setbacks (they grew tiring in Samsung v. Apple and would do so here) but will post the more important updates.