Google and Microsoft, tech giants embroiled in a competitive battle that has spanned many years and will continue to rage for many years to come, have teamed up to take down a Texas-based patent troll’s geotagging patent that they claim has been used in lawsuits against more than 300 companies, many of which are their customers or partners.
The news was first reported yesterday by The Times Of India as far as I can tell.
The defendant in the case, geo-location technology provider GeoTag, is trying to make coin from its US Patent, No. 5,930,474, entitled “Internet organizer for accessing geographically and topically based information”.
The patent was originally applied for in 1996 and granted in 1999. Microsoft and Google, who fear for their respective online mapping services to get targeted as well, claim there was prior art at the time of filing that the USPTO did not care to take into account.
GeoTag reportedly paid a whopping $119 million to obtain the patent.
The patent has, however, “changed ownership at least five times,” with the current owner headed by one of the patent inventors, according to the complaint. GeoTag, meanwhile, is plotting an IPO and has filed documents with the SEC to sell shares at $6.25 each.
Microsoft and Google seek to invalidate the applicable patent, prove that the technology is not used in Google Maps or Bing Maps, but also pleaded for a judge to order GeoTag to stop suing so many of its customers and partners over their store locator services.
Let’s hope the patent troll loses, big time.
Patents should be used to protect companies that produce actual, innovative products and services, not to make greedy people behind non-practicing entities enormously wealthy without them ever producing anything, let alone selling a product or service to anyone.