Google today stepped up its battle to protect its patents, with the latest target a countersuit against BT, the UK incumbent telecoms carrier, along with Ipanema Technologies, which resells some of BT’s services. The suit relates to four patents that Google says are being infringed by enterprise services that BT runs over its IP network, specifically relating to its conferencing services and quality of service assurance products.
Google today filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which we have embedded below. TechCrunch understands that BT will be served with papers tomorrow (Thursday) in the UK, at which point that suit will become available as well.
The lawsuit in the U.S. was first noticed by Reuters earlier today. The patents in question are U.S. Patent numbers 5,581,703; 5,701,465; 6,807,166; and 7,460,558. And specifically, Google is suing BT Conferencing, BT Americas, BT INS and Ipanema Technologies.
Google’s suit filed today is in response to BT’s original patent claims against the search giant, which it made in December 2011. Those were not related to the same services that Google is claiming against BT. Rather, BT is suing Google over patent infringement related to its Android mobile operating system. BT owns some 5,000 patents including many in the areas of Internet and wireless technology, as well as telephony.
We have reached out to BT regarding today’s suit and are awaiting a reply. We’ll update this post as we learn more. For now, a Google spokesperson tells us that litigation is a “last resort” for the company:
“We have always seen litigation as a last resort, and we work hard to avoid lawsuits. 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.”
It also sounds like negotiations have grown acrimonious between the two companies in the 13 months since BT first filed its patent claims against Google: TechCrunch also understands that BT is engaging in a practice called “patent privateering,” in which it sells its patents on to a third party for that third party to then file suits against Google or another defendant.
BT subsequently gets a cut of any of the proceeds of any patent suits or licensees signed related to those patents. This is a pretty common practice in the world of patents; Ericsson reached a similar arrangement for proceeds from patents in its recent 2,400 patent transfer to Unwired Planet. Google says it has already been sued by one such company related to BT patents, Suffolk Technologies.
This week is shaping up to be a legal blitz for Google in Europe. Earlier today, we wrote about another suit that Google filed, in Russia, on February 11, which was an appeal on a decision made by the Russian consumer regulator to blacklist content on YouTube as part of the country’s new firewall.
Update: BT has come back to us with a comment on the cases: “BT’s policy is not to comment on pending litigation.”